Kevin Skinkis has always been in a hurry.
When he was just 27 and starting a doctoral program in education, he set a goal for himself of becoming a superintendent by the age of 40.
“I just felt that, eventually, if you’re really going to make a difference in education, you eventually have to be in the top seat,” Skinkis said.
Last week he achieved that goal, with more than five years to spare, when the Riverside-Brookfield High School Board of Education voted unanimously to hire the 34-year-old Skinkis as District 208’s next superintendent.
Skinkis will take the helm at RB on July 1 when he replaces Interim Superintendent David Bonnette, who has led RB since 2008. Skinkis is the principal at Bartlett High School, a position he obtained nearly four years ago when he was just 30 years old.
“I had imagined I would do that for eight to 10 years before becoming a superintendent,” Skinkis said. “I didn’t think it would come so soon.”
Skinkis is not a complete stranger to RB. His wife Jessica, a former teacher, grew up in North Riverside and graduated from RB in 1995. Skinkis and his wife now live in Willowbrook with their 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.
Skinkis grew up in Cicero and attended Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park. He earned a football scholarship to Southern Illinois University, where he played center. When he graduated from SIU, Skinkis was hired as a social studies teacher at Morton East in Cicero.
After only three years as a classroom teacher, Skinkis was named dean of students at Morton East. Three years later, he was hired to be an assistant principal at Mundelein High School. And, three years after that, Skinkis was hired, at the age of 30, to be principal at Bartlett.
Immediately upon beginning his career at Morton Skinkis began going to graduate school at night. He quickly racked up degrees He first obtained a master’s degree from Benedictine University, then a chief school business official certificate from Governors State University and, finally, an Ed.D. degree from National-Louis University with a superintendent’s endorsement.
“I never really took any time off, which is why I was able to obtain all those degrees by the time I was 30 years old,” Skinkis said.
Skinkis was chosen to be superintendent from field of 58 applicants.
RB’s search firm, Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, interviewed 20 of the applicants and presented five to the District 208 school board. The school board interviewed five semifinalists on Jan. 21 and Jan. 22 and then narrowed the field to two finalists. The board invited Skinkis and one other candidate back for second interviews.
Skinkis had the final interview on Jan. 26, and the next day the board met in closed session and agreed that he was their pick.
“His interview performance was head and shoulders above anyone else that we talked to,” said District 208 school board President James Marciniak. “We got organized thinking. We got deep thinking. We got reflection on a lot of experience packed into a relatively short time.”
Board members were impressed by Skinkis’ passion and energy.
“I was just blown away by his energy level,” said Larry Herbst. “I’m still living off the energy level right now. I think it’s a great day for the school.”
Matt Sinde had a similar reaction.
“When you were done with the two hours with him, you almost got goose bumps just from listening to him, just feeling the energy and enthusiasm he was going to bring,” Sinde said.
Dan Moon called Skinkis “the right person for the right time.”
Mike Welch agreed.
“He answered questions with thoughts that I think our district needs – from school safety to his business background in education,” Welch said. “He has everything that we need to move us forward.”
Skinkis brings that same energy and passion to his current job.
At the homecoming assembly during his first year at Bartlett he burst through a paper banner and ran around the gym dressed as a super fan wearing a Bartlett jersey and cape and waving the school flag.
While at the helm at Bartlett, Skinkis says the school improved in many areas.
“We raised the ACT score from 20.8 to 21.3,” Skinkis said. “We cut discipline infractions by 22 percent; we lowered out-of-school suspensions by 45 percent. It’s been a great run over at Bartlett.”
However Bartlett failed to make adequate yearly progress last year (AYP) under the ever more difficult standards of the federal No Child Left Behind Law.
Marciniak said that did not particularly trouble the board.
“The way that No Child Left Behind is set up to work, pretty soon no one’s going to make AYP, RB included,” Marciniak said. “This whole system is supposed to result in 100-percent compliance of all students by the 2013-14 school year, and that’s entirely unrealistic. That’s really not a terrible concern for us.”
Skinkis earned high praise from his immediate supervisor at his current school distinct.
“The first word that comes to mind about Kevin Skinkis is that he’s a star,” said Greg Walker the assistant superintendent for secondary education at Elgin School District U-46. “He’s a very passionate leader who cares very deeply for staff and for his students and their development. He loves what he does. He was an engaging and participatory principal, not the guy who wore the suit every day. They say that leaders are born, not made. I think he’s a born leader who’s been made. I think he’s ready to do a great job.”