Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski, known to many as Dr. K, is retiring. But not until 2025.
Despite his retirement date being more than two and a half years away, the District 95 school board knows replacing him will be big task, and they are not waiting to get started.
The board has contracted with the search firm BWP & Associates, which will soon be conducting a survey and meeting with focus groups in an attempt to discover what qualities the community wants in a new superintendent.
The survey will be posted on the district’s website (district95.org) from Oct. 30 to Nov. 6. Four focus groups of 10-12 people each will meet with BWP consultants on Nov. 3. Those wishing to be part of a focus group should email Kuzniewski at firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than Oct. 21.
BWP is expected to present their findings from the survey and focus groups to the school board in December.
District 95 school board President Katie Mulcrone informed District 95 parents that Kuzniewski would be retiring in a letter on Oct. 7. In the letter, Mulcrone wrote that Kuzniewski informed the board last April of his intention to retire at the end of the 2024-25 school year.
“I gave them three years notice so that they could begin planning,” Kuzniewski told the Landmark.
Kuzniewski, who has led District 95 since 2009, told the Landmark that he is retiring because he will be fully vested in his pension in 2025 when he turns 55. The 2024-25 school year will be his 33rd year as an educator. He began his career as a middle school English teacher in New Lenox.
“It will be time for me to let someone else lead the district and move on to exploring other hobbies that I have, traveling with my wife — and my kids are grown, but working with them as adults,” Kuzniewski said. “I’ve given a lot of time and energy to the profession, and it will be 16 years in District 95.”
Replacing Kuzniewski is expected to be a difficult task. One study projects that approximately half of the school superintendents in the United States will retire or leave the profession in the next two to four years.
Making things more difficult is that Kuzniewski wears many hats at District 95. The district does not have a business manager or a human resources director, roles Kuzniewski also fills. That could change under the next superintendent.
“Trying to find, in today’s market, a superintendent that will also be your business manager, probably is not realistic or probable that they will be able to do that,” Kuzniewski told the Landmark.
It may also prove difficult for District 95 to attract someone who already has experience as a superintendent. Kuzniewski himself was serving as a junior high principal when he was chosen to lead District 95.
“We’re not a North Shore district, so we’re probably not attracting seated superintendents,” Kuzniewski said.
Two current administrators in the district, Director of Teaching and Learning Cathy Cannon and S.E. Gross Middle School Principal Ryan Evans, possess superintendent certification. Kuzniewski said he believes both are well-qualified to be a superintendent.
“I think Ryan and Cathy could be a superintendent in any school district tomorrow,” Kuzniewski said. “And I think the board is well aware of that, and I think they’re very fortunate that they’re going to have that as an option to them.”
If the school board goes the internal route, it seems more likely that Evans would be the choice, with Cannon being elevated to a newly created assistant superintendent position. Cannon indicated she is interested in the No. 2 spot if it’s created.
“I am not interested in pursuing the superintendency at this time but shared my interest to move into an assistant superintendent role … and to support the new superintendent through the transition,” Cannon said in an email to the Landmark.
However, Evans told the Landmark that he is interested in being considered for the post.
“I do have a strong interest in the superintendency of District 95,” Evans said in an email. “I look forward to the completion of the board of education survey to the District 95 school community to hear their thoughts on the characteristics of the next superintendent. If given the opportunity in the future, I would be honored to continue to serve Brookfield and LaGrange Park in a new role.”
The school board will have the entire next school year to decide how they want to restructure the administrative organization.
Kuzniewski said that is a possibility for the school board to choose his successor well before he leaves so that he could perhaps work closely with that person during his final year.
“I’ve made it very clear that this transfer of knowledge opportunity only exists while I’m here,” Kuzniewski said. “I’ve made it very clear to the board that when I retire my intention is to step away entirely.”
This story has been changed to include comments from S.E. Gross Principal Ryan Evans regarding his interest in being considered as District 95’s next superintendent.