Springfield – The Illinois State Board of Education recently honored 12 school district superintendents who have found unique, innovative ways to solve a wide range of challenges to their districts.
The superintendents, leaders of school districts from the Chicago suburbs, southern Illinois, and south suburban Cook County received “Break the Mold” awards for their work to deliver quality education to their students in the face of sometimes-daunting obstacles. The awards were created in 1995 to acknowledge visionary leadership and creative problem solving by local educators.
This year, winners include Superintendents Steve Humphrey, of the Crete-Monee District 201U in Will County; Frances Karanovich, of Olympia District 16 in McLean County; Lynne Rauch, of Schaumburg District 54 in Cook County; Steve Sabens, of Carbondale High School District 165 in Jackson County.
Also honored was the South Cook County Consortium, a nine-district partnership working together to leverage local funding. Consortium members include Superintendents Essie Harris, of General George Patton District 133; Leotis Swopes, of Posen-Robbins District 143.5; Sam Rhone, of West Harvey-Dixmoor District 147; Dorothea Fitzgerald, of Dolton District 148; Douglas Hamilton, of South Holland District 151; Lela Bridges, of Harvey District 152; and Willie Davis, of Ford Heights District 169.
State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee praised Humphrey for his imagination and skill in uniting three diverse communities to foster better educational achievement.
Specifically, Humphrey is credited with resolving a civil rights lawsuit and achieving educational equity and economic efficiency by creating a middle grades center built on the foundation of the former junior high school.
Humphrey also helped the district contend with a three week-long bus driver strike by changing school hours, borrowing buses from neighboring districts and convincing parents to carpool.
Karanovich, whose district, covering 377 square miles is one of the state’s largest, earned accolades from McGee for her “tenacious efforts to improve the curriculum and instruction in her schools, particularly through professional development for her teachers,” he said.
Karanovich also led the development of the first geothermal heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in an Illinois public school system. The significantly more efficient and fiscally prudent system “epitomizes the kind of school-business-government partnership that brings benefits to students and communities,” McGee said.
Rauch has been a fan of public school choice almost before charter schools hit the suburban radar screen. In 1996, as other suburban school districts fought various charter school proposals, Rauch worked to create a “school of choice” in her district.
The result was the Lincoln Prairie School, a unique hybrid incorporating the educational freedom of a charter school with the structural support and resources of a strong public school system.
McGee noted that Rauch was nominated for the “Break the Mold” award by her school board – a sure sign of the support she earns and respect she commands for her visionary work to surpass traditional educational boundaries.
Sabens is a natural-born problem solver, McGee said. A typical example of his skills was his work to propose and shepherd through a local sales tax to support local school construction.
He also has a unique understanding of the essential connection between learning environment and achievement, McGee said.
Sabens was a driving force behind the creation of a “super block” incorporating a contiguous multiblock area of schools and parks developed by the school and park districts and the city of Carbondale. The development affords a central location for the high and middle schools and many of the community’s recreational facilities.
Finally, the South Cook Consortium earned praise for its courageous work to push their school boards to sign intergovernmental agreements to leverage local funding, McGee said.
The Consortium includes eight elementary school districts in communities on the urban fringe of Chicago. The Consortium educates approximately 20,000 predominantly African-American children living at or below poverty.
The Consortium fosters innovative and sustainable learning opportunities through technology enhancement, targeted skills development, and whole family education.