By Bob Uphues
If there's a concern that arts education is suffering in public elementary school districts, it's probably not evident in LaGrange-Brookfield District 102. Superintendent Kyle Schumacher, who is just finishing up his first year leading the district, started out as a band teacher.
And the district's new assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, Christopher Finch, also has a music background — one he continues to emphasize in his present job as a principal in Northbrook.
Finch, 40, part of whose job will focus on the district's curriculum, begins his new role in D102 on July 1. He'll replace Dale Truding, who spent the 2015-16 school year as the interim director of curriculum for D102.
"Oftentimes you don't end up with someone with a 'specials' background [for curriculum director], so when you do it's always appreciated," said Finch. "That person is also going to understand the importance of the arts and will advocate for that."
Schumacher recommended hiring Finch from a field of more than 80 applicants for the job. For the past eight years, Finch has been principal of Westmoor School in Northbrook District 28.
It's a district with which Schumacher is very familiar. He began his teaching career there as a band teacher.
"I knew the strength of that district and the role the principal plays there," Schumacher said. "[Finch's] experience with the gifted program there was very strong and he connected really well with the team he was interviewing with."
According to a press release issued by the district last week, Schumacher said Finch will lead the implementation of a new curriculum in D102.
"As we continue our math implementation and begin to make changes in reading and writing programs, Dr. Finch will provide key leadership to ensure success for our students and teachers," Schumacher said in the press release.
Finch said he knew Schumacher by reputation in D28 and also crossed paths with him in Lake Zurich, when Finch was vocal music and drama teacher at Lake Zurich Middle School and principal of Sarah Adams Elementary School. Schumacher lives in Lake Zurich.
So when the D102 assistant superintendent job opened up, Finch said he reached out to Schumacher to inquire about it.
Finch earned his bachelor's degree in music education and vocal performance at Augustana College and received master's degrees from both Northwestern University and Roosevelt University. He earned his doctorate in administration and supervision in 2013 from Loyola University.
His wife, Kathryn, teaches elementary music in D28. The couple has two children.
Although he's been an administrator for the past decade or so, Finch is still active in theater and continues to emphasize it as a school principal. He'll don a costume and appear as Mozart to help teach Westmoor first-graders about the music of the great composer. He's also appeared as the Cat in the Hat in a school production of Seussical the Musical.
He also participates in summer musical productions and is an actor, director and costume designer for Centerstage in Lake Forest.
"Theater won't ever leave my blood," Finch said.