Illinois, Ypsilanti candidates interviewed for superintendentPublished 10:30am Tuesday, February 9, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
A small audience turned out for the first round of interviews at the Westside Administrative Center Monday night to observe the Niles Community Schools Board of Education’s search for a new superintendent.
The board is holding interviews all week, barring any delay due to weather, two at a time.
Roger Prosise, superintendent of the Diamond Lake School District 76 of Mundelein Ill., and Richard Weigel, assistant superintendent of the Ypsilanti Public Schools district, each answered a round of questions by the board.
Each member of the board asked a series of questions that pertained to candidates’ leadership attributes, political awareness, business management and operations experience, community involvement and public relations as well as their personal attraction to the job and opinions on team building.
Prosise, coming from a district he said had a high Latino population as well as a relatively significant low-income population described his current school system as one with “high standards, very diverse.
“I really enjoy my work,” Prosise said. “I’ve been effective and the only reason I’ve been effective is we’ve worked together … for the good of the kids.”
It was Niles’ high graduation rate combined with the percentage of low-income students that attracted Prosise to the job.
“My hat is off to you,” he said.
Asked what he felt the district’s most immediate challenges were, Prosise said first and foremost finding a new superintendent was critical, followed by finalizing a teacher’s contract, assessing work needed inside the district school buildings and looking into the need for a possible bond issue.
Prosise highlighted his experience in business and finance, his success in passing referendums and his background in strategic planning.
“I developed a budget; I managed the levy,” he said.
Prosise said he served on the board team for his district which developed a teacher’s contract.
“We’re in the third year of a three-year (contract),” he said. “That makes all the difference in the world,” he added, referring to a good relationship with the teachers’ union.
Claiming he received a 95 percent approval rating through a parent survey he administered within his district as a way of involving parents in their children’s education, Prosise said he was an active superintendent, often seen at events and games, “being present and accessible.”
In addition to his experience working in strategic planning Prosise highlighted his fight for quality bilingual education within his district, working with local legislators and ultimately developing his own means of educating students which he said showed results of significant progress.
“I’m a collaborative leader,” Prosise said. “I am a goal-oriented leader and a goal-oriented person.”
Weigel said in addition to the No. 1 issue for the district, the budget, there were additional concerns.
“Second would be the high school,” he said.
Looking at achievement data and numbers, Weigel said, “They’re not where they need to be. We have to have kids graduate with the skills needed to do something beyond high school.
“When we work together and try to achieve things together, we achieve spectacular results,” he added.
Weigel highlighted his involvement in schools, taking time out to visit classrooms and talk to teachers and administrators.
The assistant superintendent said his own high school had not met its own standards, is going through difficult times of its own and is on its third principal in five years.
His experience, he said, is limited when it comes to working with legislators and budgetary issues – deferred mostly to the superintendent of his district.
Still, Weigel said, he used Title 1 funds and other grants effectively to save the jobs of teachers in his district.
He described his leadership style as “smart leadership.”
“Sometimes there are times you have to make strong decisions and you have to draw a line in the sand,” he said.
Both candidates said that in facing budgetary cuts, the classroom would be the last place they were look to reduce funding.
Interviews continue tonight, barring any weather related cancellation.