Dr. Kevin Blankenship of Scott-Morgan CUSD #2 and Winchester CUSD #1 named 2020 Illinois Superintendent of the Year

    Dr. Kevin Blankenship, dual superintendent of Scott-Morgan CUSD #2 and Winchester CUSD #1, has been named 2020 Illinois Superintendent of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Administrators.

    The award was presented Saturday (November 23) during the Joint Annual Conference in Chicago co-sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO) and IASA. Nominees are judged on the following criteria: leadership for learning, communication, professionalism and community involvement.

     “I am extremely honored and privileged to serve as superintendent of two tremendous school districts. Both school communities work hard every day to provide the best education possible for our students,” said Blankenship, who has been an educator for 26 years and superintendent for the past eight years.  “Illinois has so many outstanding superintendents that I also view this award as a reflection of the work that all superintendents do on a daily basis.” 

    This school year, Blankenship took on the unique responsibility of also leading Winchester CUSD #1 as part of a shared-superintendent agreement the two school districts in Scott County entered into locally. Combined, the districts serve about 900 preK-12 students in west central Illinois.

    Blankenship is one of two superintendents in Illinois to lead two unit districts. He typically spends the morning in one district and the afternoon in the other in order to maintain strong visibility.

    “Dr. Blankenship was the right choice to lead our district forward,” said Trista Freeman, school board member in Winchester CUSD #1.

     “He’s been great as far as communication with the board as well as maintaining visibility at both districts.”

    Scott-Morgan CUSD #2 has seen significant improvements since Blankenship was hired in 2012. The accomplishments include:

    • Overhauled technology infrastructure to support a 1:1 initiative, where students in grades 5-12 take home the devices. All third and fourth graders have Chromebooks at school and students in grades K-2 use iPads at school.
    • The average ACT score increased by 25 percent in five years after he was hired.
    • Bluffs Elementary and Junior High schools underwent major renovations that better support student learning.
    • Fostered countless hours of professional development for teachers and staff.
    • Maintained a top quality education for students by leading the district in the passage of a property tax referendum that increased local funding and avoided reductions in staff and programs.

    Gary Westermeyer, School Board President in Scott Morgan CUSD #2, said Blankenship has brought stability to the district with his leadership skills.

    “During a period of financial uncertainty, Kevin’s financial oversight and budgeting ability kept our district in great financial health,” Westermeyer said. “In addition, his desire to get our district into current times propelled us into a technological one-to-one initiative, which has paid rich dividends to our students.”

    Dr. Brent Clark, executive director of IASA, described Blankenship as a tremendous leader who works tirelessly to improve the educational environment for students.

    “Kevin is a tremendous worker,” Clark said. “He’s smart. He’s perceptive, and he will do whatever is necessary to get the job done correctly. That’s Kevin. He will outwork almost anyone else around him.”

    Blankenship currently serves on the IASA Board of Directors (Two Rivers Region) and is one of a handful of superintendents in Illinois who is also a certified police officer. He is a board member for the Bluffs Education Foundation, Village of Bluffs TIF Joint Committee and is a founding board member of Morgan-Scott Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO).

    Blankenship received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, his Chief School Business Official Certification from the University of Illinois Springfield and Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He and his wife, Julie, have two daughters.  



    DuQuoin’s Dr. Gary Kelly named 2019 Illinois Superintendent of the Year

    Dr. Gary Kelly, superintendent of DuQuoin Community Unit School District #300, has been named 2019 Illinois Superintendent of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA).

    The award was presented Sunday (November 18) during the Joint Annual Conference in Chicago co-sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO) and IASA. Nominees are judged on the following criteria: leadership for learning, communication, professionalism and community involvement.

    “I am very humbled and appreciative in receiving this award,” said Kelly, who has been an educator for 33 years, including the past 22 as superintendent in DuQuoin. “This award is about the work of people in my school district, specifically our administrators, faculty and staff that work hard every day to provide the best for our students.”

    Kelly also credited great students in DuQuoin and his family for any success he’s had in the district.

    “It is about having great students in our school district,” he said.  “Our Board of Education, community and parents have supported the vision and mission of our school district to provide the best education possible for our students. We have a “school-community” that supports a culture for students to be successful.”

    DuQuoin CUSD #300 Board member Larry Valier added Kelly’s vision, leadership and caring attitude allowed the district to flourish from a facility, programmatic and financial standpoint.

    “Dr. Kelly is a student-focused leader who cares about our students and demonstrates that attitude at all times,” Valier said. “Our district’s motto of “Working Together for All Students” is a derivative of his leadership style and determination to serve all students.”

    Those who nominated Kelly noted several major accomplishments in his 22-year tenure as superintendent of DuQuoin, including:

    • Managed the district’s budget through tough financial times without cutting academic or extra-curricular programs or sending reduction-in-force notices to staff.
    • Passed two building referendums and two sales tax referendums to build and finance facility improvements.
    • Implemented blended classrooms at the elementary level that place students identified as at-risk for learning in rooms with a teacher and instructional aide who modify instruction to fit student needs.
    • Revamped the district’s evaluation tools for both teachers and principals.
    • Helped to establish a District Educational Foundation to provide financial support in the form of classroom grants to support student learning, providing over 600 scholarships to graduating seniors to support their further academic endeavors and the development of the High Schools’ joint county-wide CEO program.
    • Implemented focus group meetings with parents, community members and students to discuss and share various aspects of school improvement and programs.
    • Oversaw the development and continued revision of the district’s strategic plan.

    DuQuoin CUSD #300 has a student population of 1,500 students.

    Dr. Brent Clark, executive director of IASA, described Kelly as a “tenacious” leader for his students, staff and community.

    “He has never given up and has always kept fighting for improvements within his district. He is highly respected for his stewardship, knowledge and expertise,” Clark said about Kelly. “He truly is an exceptional school leader and role model who is well deserving of this honor.”

    In his 33 years as an educator, Kelly has served as a teacher, coach, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent. He is a past president of IASA, DuQuoin Chamber of Commerce, DuQuoin Lion’s Club and has served on numerous other boards.

    He also is a member of the American Association of School Administrators and served on the AASA Executive Committee and as Governing Board Member. He is a two-time recipient of the IASA Egyptian Region Superintendent of the Year award. Dr. Kelly is also a Clinical Assistant Professor within the Department of Educational Administration and Higher Education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

    He received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Illinois in Champaign and his master’s and doctorate degrees from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He and his wife, Deana, have two grown children.

  • Illinois Superintendent of the Year Program

    This award, presented annually by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and VALIC recognizes outstanding leadership among the ranks of superintendents. The recipients are listed beginning with the first year of IASA’s sponsorship of this award. 
    • Dr. Gary Kelly, DuQuoin CUSD #300 - 2019
    • David R. Schuler, Township HSD #214 - 2018
    • Jason D. Henry, Sesser-Valier CUSD #196 - 2017
    • Judy Hackett, Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization (NSSEO) - 2016
    • Thomas E. Bertrand, Rochester Comm Unit #3A - 2015
    • Kelly Stewart, Benton #103 - 2014
    • Jane L. Westerhold, Des Plaines CC #62 - 2013
    • Peter Flynn, Freeport #145 - 2012
    • Edward F. Rafferty, Schaumburg CC #54 - 2010
    • Mark Friedman, Libertyville #70 - 2009
    • Blondean Y. Davis, Matteson Elem #162 - 2008
    • Kevin L. Settle, Mount Vernon #80 - 2007
    • Thomas F. Leahy, Quincy #172 - 2006
    • Frances B. Karanovich, Macomb Comm #185 - 2005
    • James T. Rosborg, Belleville #118 - 2004
    • David B. Van Winkle, Valley View #365U - 2003
    • Robert S. Nielsen, Bloomington #87 - 2002
    • James Burgett, Highland Comm #5 - 2001
    • Gerald D. Chapman, Palatine Twp HS #211 - 2000
    • John G. Conyers, Palatine CC #15 - 1999
    • Marvin E. Edwards, Elgin #U-46 - 1998
    • Dorothy M. Weber, Arlington Heights #25 - 1997
    • Robert C. Stevens, Glenbard Twp HS #87 - 1996
    • Joel W. Morris, West Chicago CUSD #94 - 1995
    • Barbara S. Devlin, Villa Park Elem #45 - 1994
    • Thomas G. Scullen, Indian Prairie CUSD #204 - 1993
    • Jean B. McGrew, Northfield Twp HS #225 - 1992
    • James L. Elliott, Maine Twp HS #207 - 1991 
  •  Congratulations to Dr. David R. Schuler, AASA's
    2018 National Superintendent of the Year!


    CLICK TO VIDEO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1oLKKWI0sA

    Dr. David R. Schuler of High School District 214 in Arlington Heights, IL, has been named the 2018 National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA). He is the first Illinois Superintendent to be named to such honor.
    The award was presented today (February 15) during the National Conference on Education in Nashville, Tennessee.
    In his acceptance speech, with excitement and humility, he thanked all who supported him. "The credit truly goes to the students, staff and the extremely supportive school board of High School District 214," said Schuler, who oversees the state's second-largest high school district, with more than 12,000 students at six high schools and four specialized learning programs in the northwest suburbs of Cook County. The district includes Buffalo Grove HS, Elk Grove HS, John Hersey HS, Prospect HS, Rolling Meadows HS and Wheeling HS. "High School District 214 is a microcosm of the country. I am truly fortunate to work in, hands down, the best school district in the country."
    He urged us to tell our stories and to never stop supporting all children and public education. "We have the most amazing opportunity to change our Districts, Communities, State and Nation by what we do." He expressed our obligation to our students and to be their advocates to do what is right and just. In true form, he ended with a challenge to us all to never stop doing what is right for all children, especially for our most needy. His commitment and dedication to public education was evident and inspiring.

    Dr. Brent Clark, Executive Director of IASA, said of Schuler: "He is intuitive, always looking over the horizon, full of energy and never takes "no" for an answer. He sees a need and finds a way to address it, he sees the future and embraces it, that's leadership. I think Dave is one of the people who's always looking into the future and determining where we need to be as public school educators and where public schools need to be to best suit and serve school children."

    Schuler began his career as a Social Studies teacher in Wisconsin. He also served as a student activities and athletics director and principal before becoming a school superintendent. He was superintendent in Marshall (WI) and Stevens Points (WI) before becoming head of District 214 in 2005. He attained his Bachelor's Degree from Carroll University, and his Master's in Educational Administration and Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Wisconsin. He and his partner have two children, Maliah (6) and Gavin (4).
    Please join us in congratulating and honoring Dr. David Schuler. We are so very proud of you, Dr. Schuler.


    SOY 10   SOY 12

    “I’m so honored and privileged to serve as superintendent of High School District 214. This award (is) an amazing recognition of the work that our team, our kids and our families have done,” said Schuler as a 2018 National Superintendent of the Year® finalist. “The National Superintendent of the Year® award elevates our profession and our vocation by celebrating the work that we all do. This award goes to one person, but it’s a reflection of the work that all superintendents do on a daily basis.” 

    Some of Schuler's accomplishments during his 12-year tenure as Superintendent of District 214 include: 
    • Having all six high schools in the district consistently ranked among the best in the state and country. In U.S. News and World Report's 2016 ranking, all six schools earned either a Gold or Silver medal, and were named among the top 45 public schools in the state. All six schools also were ranked in the top 11 percent in the nation in a Washington Post study that assessed the level of rigor in schools.
    • Achieving awards and recognition for financial excellence, including a perfect 4.0 score from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) on the district's Financial Profile Designation.
    • Creating Educator Prep, a teacher preparation program that provides resources, dual-credit opportunities, mentoring and job placement to students through partnerships with elementary schools and postsecondary institutions. The program is designed to empower the next generation of teachers with a specific focus on solidifying minority students' interest in the education profession.
    • Implementing a Career Pathways program that provides students with rigorous courses, access to early college credits, industry certifications, and personalized, career-specific learning experiences. Students have 44 career pathways from which to choose, there are 2,700 annual student workplace learning experiences, and in one year students earned 34,565 early college credits.

    A national education leader, Schuler served as the 2015-16 president of AASA. He leads AASA’s Redefining Ready! program, an initiative to introduce new research-based metrics to more appropriately assess that students are college ready, career ready and life ready. His push to make college more accessible and affordable has led to a comprehensive career pathways program that offers personalized learning experiences through early college credit, internships and career credentials, and the passage of critical education legislation. In a single year, District 214 earned more than 27,000 early college credits.

    Now in its 31th year, the National Superintendent of the Year® program, co-sponsored by AASA, VALIC and First Student, celebrates the contributions and leadership of public school superintendents.

    “As we honor the National Superintendent of the Year®, today marks a special day not only for the honoree, but the critical roles superintendents play when it comes to creating successful pathways for the future leaders of our country,” said Robert Scheinerman, president, group retirement, VALIC, a division of AIG. “VALIC is proud to serve as a co-sponsor for the AASA National Superintendent of the Year® program. We congratulate the 2018 Superintendent of the Year®, David Schuler, along with the finalists and all of the State Superintendents of the Year who contribute so much to the advancement of public education.”

    Superintendents are vital to the success of our public schools. First Student is thrilled to congratulate David Schuler as the 2018 National Superintendent of the Year®,” said Dennis R. Maple, president, First Student. “David, the three other finalists and the State Superintendents of the Year all exemplify the highest standards when it comes to leading a school district. We are honored to partner with AASA in a program that has a profound impact on the lives of students throughout our country.

    “On behalf of the nation’s 50 million students attending our public schools today, it is an honor to congratulate David Schuler for his outstanding contributions to our society,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “We also congratulate our three other finalists, Superintendents Robinson, Sieu and Winstead, as well as our State Superintendents of the Year. These individuals are all champions for children and we are excited to recognize them at our national conference where we annually convene the sharpest minds in our field. I commend VALIC and First Student for sponsoring our program because it shines a positive light on the superintendency while showcasing the tireless work being done in school buildings throughout our country.”


    The AASA National Superintendent of the Year® program is open to all U.S. superintendents who plan to continue in the profession. The program also honors Canadian and other international school superintendents. The applicants are measured against the following criteria:

    • Leadership for learning – creativity in successfully meeting the needs of students in the school system;
    • Communication – strength in both personal and organizational communication;
    • Professionalism – constant improvement of administrative knowledge and skills, while providing professional development opportunities and motivation to others on the education team; and
    • Community involvement – active participation in local community activities and an understanding of regional, national and international issues.

    A $10,000 college scholarship will be presented in the name of the 2018 AASA National Superintendent of the Year® to a student in the high school from which the superintendent graduated, or the school now serving the same area.

    For more information about the program, contact Jennifer Rooney, AASA assistant director, meetings, at jrooney@aasa.org.