LaGrange-Brookfield School District 102 officials have started interviewing candidates seeking to replace Superintendent Kyle Schumacher, who announced last year that he would retire at the end of the 2022-23 school year.
On Jan. 19, the District 102 school board met in closed session to interview three candidates for the superintendent position and hope to make a hire in February. They also voted that night, at a brief public meeting prior to the interviews, to give school board President Michael Melendez the authority to negotiate a contract with whoever the board identifies as its finalist. As of Jan. 24, the school board had not yet made its pick but had whittled the field to three finalists.
“Our hope is to make an offer by the end of next week,” Melendez said.
The school board’s goal, according to Melendez, is to vote to hire the new superintendent at its Feb. 23 meeting.
Schumacher, 55, is retiring on June 30.
“I’ve had 33 years in education and I’m kind of ready to look at the next chapter of my life,” Schumacher told the Landmark last week.
Schumacher is his eighth year leading District 102, arriving after serving as a school superintendent in Telluride, Colorado. Other than his stint in Telluride, Schumacher has spent his entire career in Illinois.
He grew up in small town near St. Louis and graduated from the University of Illinois, starting his career as a band and music teacher at Roy School in Northlake. Schumacher later became an administrator in Northbrook and then spent 17 years in Lake Forest District 67, where he rose to assistant superintendent.
In first year at District 102, Schumacher helped guide a successful referendum campaign that resulted in a tax increase that has placed the district on stable financial footing.
“We’re in a much better place [financially] than we were, certainly, thanks to this community,” Schumacher said.
Schumacher said he is also proud of the work done to improve the district’s reading instruction during his time at the helm of District 102, moving to a more research-based approach emphasizing phonics and structured word inquiry.
“I’m proud of some of the changes that we’ve made in some of our curricular areas, particularly in reading and literacy,” Schumacher said.
Schumacher said he is also proud of the dual-language program he helped start at Congress Park School in Brookfield and of the diversity and equity work that he has continued in District 102.
During Schumacher’s tenure, District 102 also eliminated letter grades and moved to standards-based report cards. The change was implemented in the 2019-20 school year.
“I think it has gone really well,” Schumacher said.
Schumacher has hired all the district-level administrators in District 102 and has hired or promoted all of the district’s principals and administrators.
Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic was a big challenge for Schumacher, as it was for all school administrators.
“It was a constant balancing act of trying to get the politics out of the school, trying to balance parent fears, teacher fears, student fears with keeping learning going and what is the best way to go about that,” Schumacher said.
He said District 102 didn’t see a huge regression in test scores after three months of complete remote learning in 2020 and hybrid learning for all of the 2020-21 school year.
In retirement Schumacher said he plans to continue serving as the volunteer choir director at the Bethlehem Woods Retirement Community. He also intends to look for other volunteer opportunities to pursue in music and to travel as much as he can.
“It’s been a great opportunity to me, it’s been my pleasure working here,” Schumacher said. “The staff that we’ve hired and the staff’s that’s been here have been incredibly nimble.”