By Bob Skolnik
Lyons Township High School District 204 Superintendent Tim Kilrea will be retiring at the end of the 2020-21 school year. The 55-year-old Kilrea is in his 12th year as superintendent at the school, which serves the south half of Brookfield.
"My decision comes with mixed emotions," Kilrea said. "Personally, I look forward to spending more time with my family. Professionally, I will miss the relationships I have built with the LT community. I have been fortunate to have a job I truly love."
Kilrea said that he is retiring because of family reasons.
"There are things that I want to do and there are things with my family that I would like to spend more time with," Kilrea said. "Family is really, really important. When you're in a job like this, like any busy job, it does take time away from your family and that does add up after a while."
District 204 school board President Tom Cushing said Kilrea will be missed.
"Tim is a wonderful person," Cushing said. "He cares about all of the students at LT. He knows all of the staff by their first name, all of our special education kids obviously know Tim and he knows them by their first names. They are always very excited to see Dr. Kilrea. He is just an outstanding superintendent and LT has been lucky to have his services in that capacity. He's a wonderful human being."
Kilrea is known for being direct and speaking his mind.
"He's straight-up guy," Cushing said. "He's a very honest, straightforward person and he's been a wonderful superintendent for us."
To his administrators, Kilrea has been an involved boss who has a collaborative leadership style.
"He has high standards and he expects the best from his team," said Scott Eggerding, the director of curriculum and instruction at LTHS. "He wants answers, he wants questions, he wants people to be collaborative. He definitely trusts his team. He definitely likes to have his finger on the pulse of things."
In his 12 years leading the district, Kilrea has overseen improvements to the physical plant including the complete overall of the school's Reber Center, a performing arts space at the school's North Campus, the construction of a performing arts center at the school's South Campus, the construction of a swimming pool at South Campus and the complete renovation and modernization of eight science classrooms.
Under his watch LTHS, during its pre-COVID schedule, introduced a 25-minute study period with all lunch periods so students can do homework, meet with teachers or just relax in an attempt to reduce student stress.
LTHS has added more elective courses, including scuba diving and American Sign Language, and eliminated class rank. Under Kilrea's watch, the school has taken steps to try to close an achievement gap that has seen low-income and minority students lag significantly behind their white peers in academic performance.
Some have said that LT needs to be much more aggressive addressing the achievement gap and what some perceive as a school culture that is often hostile or indifferent to minorities.
Kilrea, who grew up in New Jersey before moving the Flossmoor at the age of 14, began his career in 1987 as a history teacher at Lincoln-Way High School. He quickly became the chairman of the school's social studies department and also served as a dean and the director of student activities. He helped open Lincoln-Way East High School and served as the assistant principal for curriculum and instruction at that school.
After 15 years in the Lincoln-Way district, Kilrea left to become the principal of Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing. After serving as a principal for one year, he was promoted to assistant superintendent of the Thornton Fractional School District.
He came to LTHS in 2007 as the school's director of human resources and was named superintendent two years later in 2009, replacing Dennis Kelly who retired after 17 years at the helm. LTHS has had unusual stability at superintendent, having only two superintendents over the past 29 years.
Cushing said the school board intends to hire an educational executive search firm to lead the search for a new superintendent.
Kilrea said the COVID-19 pandemic played little to no role in his decision to retire at the end of the current school year.
"I would say this has been a challenging time, but I certainly wouldn't say this was a driving factor," Kilrea said.
Kilrea praised the boards of education that he has worked through the years.
"Over my 14-year tenure at LT, it has been my honor to work alongside board members who give their time, talents and energy for the betterment of students," Kilrea said. "I can retire knowing LT was, and always will be, in good hands. I am excited for the next chapter."
Kilrea said that he hasn't had time to really think much about his legacy, noting that he still has nine months left on the job in what has been a challenging school year.
"I'd like to be remembered that I was committed to the students and communities and our staff, but really to do what's in the best interest of all students," Kilrea said. "I think that's got to be a driving force for any educator."