Being Super in a Pinch Interim Superintendents Help Troubled School Districts

By Filas, Lee | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 4, 2006 | Go to article overview

Being Super in a Pinch Interim Superintendents Help Troubled School Districts


Filas, Lee, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Lee Filas Daily Herald Staff Writer

September finds Darrell Dick and Don Gossett in the trenches of yet another school district.

They are battle-tested, and they've signed on once again to quell a problem.

In recent years, they've fought money troubles in Lake Zurich and building problems in North Chicago. This year, it's Ingleside where they are intent on uniting the embattled Gavin school district.

Dick and Gossett are part of a legion of retired school administrators who work as interim superintendents. They're education mercenaries of a sort who use decades of administrative experience to help beleaguered school boards and districts get back on track.

"We've dealt with similar issues to what is going on here," Gossett said of Ingleside's Gavin Elementary District 37. "But, that being said, we weren't here for the past three years and don't know all the details of what went on. We're just going to work to move past it."

It's a move applauded by the Illinois State Board of Education, said spokeswoman Meta Minton.

"By hiring these retired superintendents, there will be someone at the helm who has the experience to give the school board time to rebuild and regroup," she said. "They can also go out for a long- term fix and hire a full-time superintendent. It's a good situation."

Twenty school districts across the state relied on interim superintendents in 2005, Minton said. Most, if not all, were hired to short-term contracts.

Among them were retired superintendents Stephen Berry and Ronald Smith, who were tapped by Glenbard Township High School District 87 to help after Superintendent Timothy Hyland resigned.

Hyland retired mid-year at the school district amid much criticism. Chief among complaints was he did not do enough to help pass a tax increase for the district.

The district includes all of Glen Ellyn, Carol Stream, Glendale Heights and Lombard and parts of several other nearby towns.

Berry and Smith were brought in to help the district while the school board searched for a full-time replacement and tried to pass a tax rate increase shot down by voters repeatedly during Hyland's term.

Voters rejected two education fund tax increases before Hyland resigned. Under Berry's and Smith's watch, voters approved a bond fund tax increase to pay off operating fund loans.

The job was old hat for Berry, who served in an interim capacity at three different schools - including Glenbard - after retiring from Northwest Suburban High School District 214 in Arlington Heights in 1994. He also was an interim at Lake Park District 108 and Carpentersville-based Dundee Unit District 300.

It was Smith's first stint as an interim, but he was no stranger to Glenbard. He served as superintendent there from 1999 to 2002.

Berry, who has worked as an interim by himself and as part of a team, said working with a partner is the ideal situation.

"I can tell you, for one person to do the job, it is extremely difficult," he said. "The board gets their money's worth when there are two superintendents."

The move was necessary, Glenbard spokeswoman Peg Manion said, to keep the district moving forward during the search for a permanent superintendent.

"The value to us was their experience," Manion said. "Ron Smith was an administrator years ago and knew the district well, while Berry brought a fresh perspective to us. By putting the two together, it was an exceptional help for the district."

By law, retired administrators are allowed to work only 120 days per year as interim superintendents due to pension issues. …

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