After 16 years planning Kanelandâ€™s future, superintendent prepares for his own
by Martha Quetsch
KANELANDâ€”If one word could be used to describe Kaneland School District during Superintendent Charlie McCormick’s 16 years with it, that word would be â€œgrowing.â€ One word best describes how McCormick dealt with that issue, â€œplanning.â€
â€œI have tried to think ahead, always anticipating several years in advance what things could be so that we don’t paint ourselves into a corner and so that we give ourselves some flexibility for the future,â€ McCormick said.
McCormick, who is retiring in June, came to the district in 1994, and since then the number of students and staff has more than doubled. Sixteen years ago, the district had 147 teachers and administrators, and now has 382.
At the beginning of 1994 school year, the district had 2,149 students, compared to the estimated 2010-11 enrollment of 4,674.
One of the first tasks he tackled to prepare for additional expected growth was pursuing intergovernmental agreements with district municipalities to ensure developer impact fees for the schools.
â€œWhen I became superintendent (in 1998) I sort of took that on and really, what I thought what had to happen was that it’s not just the municipalities talking to usâ€”they need to be talking to one another.â€
Now, when a municipality wants to attract a developer, everything is open to negotiation except school fees.
â€œThose are not negotiable,’ McCormick said. â€œThey can’t be traded off.â€
Establishing the intergovernmental agreement was not easy, he said.
â€œIt took a lot of meetings with municipalities,â€ McCormick said.
At two or three of those meetings, all of the trustees from all the villages were all in one room, the high school library.
Citizen advisory committees
Trying to get the word out about district issues over 142 square miles and nine communities was among McCormick’s challenges over the years, especially when referendums were at stake, he said. The district made great strides in that communication effort by establishing the citizen advisory committees, he said.
McCormick proposed the citizen advisory committees to the School Board about 10 years ago.
â€œI said, as long as we’re going to keep growing here, you really are going to need to have ongoing communications with the community in some form, some way,â€ he said.
The district created a citizens advisory committee, a facilities planning committee and finance advisory committee, all composed mostly of citizens appointed by the School Board.
â€œI think that structure has served the board well, because it has provided for them an ongoing entity that when we start seeing a need in a change for a facility, or a new facility, we start right there with the citizens, early,â€ McCormick said.
Some CAC members have served for nearly 10 years, bringing district information to the community and bringing residents’ feedback to district officials.
The advisory committees have helped inform district residents about the need for several school referendums for new buildings, McCormick said.
McCormick, of Sycamore, started as Kaneland’s assistant superintendent for business 16 years ago and became superintendent four years later in place of Dennis Dunton.
Kaneland Assistant Superintendent Jeff Schuler will take the superintendent seat this summer.
When McCormick came to Kaneland, the district had just two schools, at Meredith and Keslinger roads in Maple Park. Others throughout the district had been closed over the years as enrollment tapered off and old buildings needed costly asbestos removal.
However, by 1994, enrollment had increased at the seventh through 12 grades, housed in what is now the high school, and K-sixth at the other building.
â€œThat’s what I walked into … growth was now happening,â€ McCormick said. â€œThe district was getting bigger and bigger, swelling up against the walls.
â€œPart of what happens with growth, is that everything has to grow. You have to have more buildings, more lights, more teachers, more administrators, more buses-the whole thing just grows.â€
School Board member Cheryl Krauspe said McCormick was a deft leader who was invaluable in a time of great change in the district.
â€œCharlie provided important direction in our times of managing rapid growth and due diligence in our times of economic distress,â€ Krauspe said. â€œHe led with respectfulness, thoughtfulness, finesse, and the wisdom that comes from valuable experience. Kaneland is a better, much improved, more solid place because of his dedication and his distinguished career of service and leadership with us.â€