• Superintendent of the year application

    Applications No Longer Being Accepted

    IASA is excited to announce the 2022 Illinois Superintendent of the Year Application is now available! To streamline the process, IASA created its own online application and is no longer utilizing the American Association of School Administrators portal.

    Any superintendent can apply for Illinois Superintendent of the Year. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, September 8. Each candidate will be judged by an independent panel on the following criteria:
    • Pandemic Response – How has your district innovated in a new environment?  
    • Student Success – How is your district elevating student success in the areas of academics, high school preparedness, college and career readiness and social-emotional support?  
    • Teacher Success – How is your district improving the quality of teaching and learning?  
    • Equity – How is your district promoting fairness and inclusion?
    • District Success – How has your leadership pushed your district forward?
    • Involvement with IASA – How involved are you with IASA?
    • Memberships, PD activities, Awards – What professional organizations are you involved with, have you led or participated in professional development or received any other honors/awards?  


    Dr. Donna Leak of Community Consolidated Schools District #168 was named 2021 Illinois Superintendent of the Year. 

    Dr. Donna Leak, superintendent of Community Consolidated Schools District #168, has been named the 2021 Illinois Superintendent of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Administrators.

    The award was presented Tuesday (December 15) during a virtual ceremony held via Zoom and simulcast on Facebook Live. Educators from across the state joined the ceremony for the unveiling of this year’s winner. Illinois Superintendent of the Year nominees are judged on the following criteria: leadership for learning, communication, professionalism and community involvement.

    “I am filled with gratitude and appreciation to receive this award. Every day, it is my privilege and honor to serve our Board of Education, administrators, staff, students and families. They are truly the forces that make the work so rewarding,” said Dr. Leak, who has been an educator for 32 years and is in her 11th year as a superintendent.  

    “Our collective commitment to ensuring that our students excel by inspiring, challenging and supporting them every day to reach their greatest academic, social and personal potential is at the heart of all we do. This award is about that work by our entire community and is shared with them.”  

    Dr. Leak also serves as Vice Chair of the Illinois State Board of Education. She is the first active superintendent to ever serve on the ISBE Board.

    As superintendent, Dr. Leak has overseen numerous improvements, both inside and outside of the classroom, that have helped transform CCSD #168, a pre-K-8 district that serves roughly 1,400 students, predominantly from low-income households, in the southern suburbs of Chicago. Accomplishments include:

    • Implemented new teaching and learning strategies based on research to help narrow the achievement gap. Changes include hiring of instructional coaches, purchasing new curriculum and increasing staff’s focus on data to determine additional interventions for students.
      • As a result, CCSD #168 has seen one of its buildings move from Targeted Support to Commendable status on the Illinois Report Card.
    • Chronic absenteeism from the 2019-2020 school year dropped from 36% to 11%.
    • Enhanced social-emotional supports for students, including hiring an additional counselor and social workers.
    • Revamped the district’s preschool program, which has led to an increase in the number of students prepared for kindergarten.
    • Strengthened community relations through increased communication, including monthly Parent Coffees, community chats, updates on social media, phone blasts and email blasts.
    • Established research-based teacher and principal evaluator systems and invested in professional learning for staff.
    • Installed a state-of-the-art water filtration system, removed asbestos from buildings and renovated the junior high school.
    • Expanded community outreach efforts with Back to School Bashes that connect families with services, such as on-site dental and physical exams, GED support and health services. 

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Leak has demonstrated strong leadership that has allowed the district to quickly adapt and continue to support and engage with students during remote learning. Her efforts include:

    • Between March 2020 and August 2020, CCSD #168 provided every child with a device and every home with internet where needed. The district also invested in new digital resources and platforms.
    • CCSD #168 set up virtual after school programs, provided evening support for parents, transitioned in-person events to virtual formats and took an all-hands-on-deck approach to ensure someone routinely met with students based on their intervention needs.
    • Delivered meals to students and partnered with local churches to establish meal pick-up sites for adults in the community.

    School Board President Tammy Jones said Dr. Leak’s efforts the past decade has truly transformed CCSD #168. 

    “Her tenacity, independence and ability to lead has united our district. We are more of a family than a school district,” said Jones. 

    Margaret Sharkey, a teacher and president of the local teacher’s union, noted Dr. Leak is a passionate educator who is incredibly supportive of teachers. 

    “There is never anything you can’t go to her about,” Sharkey said. “She will always try and work with you to get through whatever issue. It’s truly a great pleasure to work for her and with her.” 

    The Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) is the state’s premier advocacy organization for school administrators with nearly 2,000 members. Dr. Brent Clark, executive director of IASA, described Dr. Leak as a passionate leader who works tirelessly to improve the educational environment for students both in her district and statewide in her role as an ISBE Board member. 

    “Nobody has a bigger heart and more enthusiasm for helping students succeed than Donna Leak,” said Dr. Clark. “Her work has helped transform her district, and she truly is a role model for administrators and incredibly deserving of this honor.”

    Dr. Leak is a member of the National Association of State Boards of Education, Superintendents’ Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity and serves on the Board of Directors for the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics, where she has served as an editor and reviewer on multiple series of publications including equity in mathematics education. Dr. Leak is also involved in numerous community groups and has led professional development training to help districts address Professional Learning Communities at Work, Mathematical Practices and racial inequities.

    “In this unprecedented year of pandemic, civil unrest and economic struggles, we are all working diligently to provide for our communities on all levels,” said Dr. Leak. “This award is a tribute to all of us.  Congratulations to all of my colleagues across the State for the work we are doing – I share this with each of you and my district, Community Consolidated Schools District 168.”               


  • 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. Donna Leak, CCSD #168
    • Dr. Kevin Blankenship, Scott-Morgan CUSD #2 and Winchester CUSD #1 (watch video)
    • Dr. Gary Kelly, DuQuoin CUSD #300 - 2019 (watch video)
    • 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.