The three finalists to be Macomb’s next school superintendent have all been to town for interviews with the Board of Education, staff, and the community. Now it’s up to the board to decide who will be the district’s next leader.
Board President Robert Shouse has said an announcement could be made by the end of February.
Here are profiles of the finalists:
Dr Chad Allaman
Allaman has been superintendent of Central School District 51 in Washington (IL) since 2007. He grew up on a farm in Warren County. He has earned several degrees, including his Doctorate of Education, from Western Illinois University. He said before becoming a teacher, he gained leadership experience in association management and corporate sales.
Allaman considered Macomb to be a destination district for him.
“My wife and I have both lived and worked in Macomb and both consider it our second home,” Allaman said.
“We feel like the issues that the district is facing right now would be a very good fit for my particular set of skills and hope that I have an opportunity to serve the district.”
Allaman said Central 51 was already a high performing district when he came on board. He believes it’s made further progress under his stewardship through the implementation of “Professional Learning Communities.”
“It takes the focus more off of teaching and puts the focus on student learning. It has in the program a focus on collaboration, it provides teachers time for inquiry, there’s common planning time for teachers, (and) a focus on data driven decision making.”
Allaman said the program started four years ago. He said in every year since then, at least one of the district’s schools has received an academic excellence award from the Illinois State Board of Education.
Allaman believes the biggest challenge facing the Macomb district is the same one facing schools across the state: finances. He said superintendents must be effective at lobbying lawmakers, but he said it’s also important for him to push for the public to get involved.
“Encouraging them to contact their legislators and put their two-cents in for appropriate funding for public schools. “
He thinks it means more to legislators when constituents speak out on an issue.
Allaman said he has a winning attitude that could help the Macomb district move forward. He also said he is young enough that he could remain in the Macomb School District for many years to come.
Dr Chet Lien
Lien has been superintendent of Rockridge Community Unit School District 300 since 2011. He was principal of Project Insight in Macomb from 2000 – 2008 before being named superintendent of the Astoria School District, where he worked until taking his current position. Lien has several degrees, including his Doctorate of Education, from Western Illinois University.
Lien believed his experience sets him apart from the other finalists.
“I have a very good background from a farming community, being part of a rural community. Extensive arts education. I’ve been involved with athletics for years. Education is very, very important to me,” Lien said.
“So it’s that total package, that complete person you are. I think that separates me from some of the others.”
Lien said Rockridge recently created a technology committee. He said the district is trying to do more by taking advantage of the expertise available from the community.
“We’re very fortunate in Rockridge in that we’re located right there in the Quad Cities and we have quite a few community members and parents who are actively involved as I.T. people with major companies and organizations within the Quad Cities. I think that’s going to be a very exciting initiative that we’ve started.”
Lien said the technology committee will help the district determine where it is and where it needs to be. He also Macomb has already made a significant investment in technology and is in better shape than many other districts.
Lien said school financing will be a huge issue in the coming years. He is concerned the situation will get worse because of the state’s financial difficulties.
Lien said schools will have to do more with less. He also said it’s imperative for schools to make their voices heard by state and federal lawmakers.
“I think as leader of the district, it’s imperative that you spend time in Springfield or working with the General Assembly or talking to our federal representatives (and) Senators and letting them know that we are experiencing financial distress and it’s children that we are putting at risk.”
Lien feels he learned a great deal about school finances years ago when he interned for Charles Langley at the Dallas City School District. He said Langley is highly regarded as an expert on school finances.
Dr Patrick Twomey
Twomey has been superintendent of Havana Community Unit School District 126 since 2007. Before that, he spent one year as Macomb High School Principal and three years as assistant principal. He also taught in the Macomb district and still lives in Macomb. He said all that adds up to a candidate with close ties to the town.
“Even though I’m not a superintendent here I’m extremely involved with the community,” Twomey said.
“My wife and I attend many, many events. We’re members of the Performing Arts Society. We’re Golden Apple participants at McDonough District Hospital. We work a lot with the education department at Western Illinois University.”
Twomey has a Doctorate of Education from WIU and said he has continued his education through professional development seminars. He estimated he participates in at least 20 webinars per year and also attends conferences.
Twomey said Havana is making a name for itself by trying what he called “an innovative method of delivering content, especially to older students.”
The program is called “The Flipped Classroom.”
Twomey said in a traditional classroom, the teacher delivers a 20-to-25 minute lecture in front of the students. He/She then gives some guided practice and assigns related homework.
”In the flip model, students receive that content outside the classroom – either through a video or through reading – and then when they come into the classroom, they do the homework with the content area expert teacher. So kids learn, whatever their objective is, they learn to do it the right way the first time because they’re doing it with the teacher.”
Twomey said he is the first superintendent in the country to use “The Flipped Classroom” in an entire high school. He thinks it will ultimately improve student achievement.
Twomey said finances are the biggest challenge facing Macomb and all other school districts. To offset some of the loss of state money, he has reached out to the business community in Havana.
“Area businesses want to help their local schools be better schools, and when you develop initiatives that are going to cost dollars outside of what you have in your system, you have to go to those business partners. But you have to be able to articulate what it is you need and why you need it.”
Twomey said he spends a great deal of time cultivating those business relationships and he believes it has paid off. He said businesses have contributed $400,000 to the district in the last two-and-a-half years. Half of that money has come in form of in-kind donations.