Recently in Valley View School District Category

While other districts struggle to balance the budget, Valley View School District has avoided the need to hand out pink slips this year to teachers this year.

However, instructional aides were not as lucky.

For the first time in several years, Valley View will not hand out Reduction-In-Force (RIF) notices to non-tenured certified teaching staff, said Spokesman Larry Randa.

There's a large number of retirements at the end of the current school year, as well as several resignations, which negate the need for a certified staff RIF, said Sharon Hawks. executive director for human resources at Tuesday night's board meeting.

However, there is a need to reduce the number of instructional aides, Hawks said.

Valley View will issue RIF notices to about 29 first-and-second-year teacher aides because of enrollment changes as well as for budgetary considerations. Hawks indicated "around 14" of the 29 are likely to be called back to work at some point in the next few months. Call-backs take place based on seniority

By R.L. Anderson

Four positions are at stake in the upcoming Valley View School Board election against the backdrop of two difficult financial years, concerns about student achievement, and the elevation of Bolingbrook Principal James Mitchem to Superintendent effective on July 1st.

Three four-year terms and an unexpired two-year spot will be determined by voters on April 5.

Three incumbents are running together under the Friends of Valley View banner and are seeking four-year terms. They are school board President Steve Quigley, Rick Gougis and Leo Venegas. A fourth member of the Friends of Valley View group is Chrystal Hansen, a candidate for the two-year position.

Six other challengers are on the ballot.

Seeking the four-year seats are April Gavin, Kenneth Harris, Claudia Simmons, Kenneth Williams, and Philip Wilson. Robert Leach is a candidate for the two-year position.
Two years of budget cuts, continued deficits caused in large part by delayed state funding, and a new focus on academic achievement have dominated the board's attention since the last election in 2009.

A year ago there was a re-shuffling of administrative posts designed to provide budget relief and improved test results. The new structure didn't last long. After Mitchem's appointment in October of last year, the board adopted his strategic and administrative re-organization plan. Included was a new organization chart with overhauled job descriptions. Mitchem's design is intended to improve student performance by connecting each classroom to overall district goals and taking a fresh approach to issues like student discipline, increasing employee accountability and many others.
The ten candidates were asked to answer the following profile questions. Wilson was the lone candidate who did not provide the requested information.

Six candidates for three four-year terms

April Gavin

Residence: Bolingbrook
Occupation: Management
Age: 44
Family Information: Married with two children
Education: Bachelor of Science, University of Kentucky
Public & Community Service Activities: Universal Leadership Team since 2009 - Oak View School; PTA member - Oak View School since 2009; Interview team member for new principal at Oak View School (2010); Valley View Green Team Committee for pilot program; Volunteer for DuPage Township events since 2009; Volunteer H2O fundraiser 2010; Assistant Den Leader, Pack 367, Boy Scouts of America since 2010; and annual contributions to non-for-profit fundraising events in the community

Why are you seeking this office?

I have experience in many related aspects that a board member should possess. For the past three years I have been directly involved with Valley View schools to increase my knowledge on district agendas and programs. Also, I am a business woman with over 15 years of experience in financial analysis and planning.

There are initiatives that I have been working on to ensure that I am the most qualified candidate.

I am a ULT Member at Oak View Elementary School. With this position I have made decisions and offered constructive criticism regarding PBIS, CICO, RtI, Guided Reading, OV Educational Belief Model and OV Mission statement. I have had access to review and analyze data regarding these programs. (All of these programs are district mandates and I have learned first hand how the district initiatives affect our schools' implementation and learning processes.)

I have received training on PBIS and AIMSWEB reporting and have gained the knowledge and understanding that the data provides.

My professional experience has provided me with training and the expertise of analyzing
and creating a budget. I am resourceful when it comes to making sound decisions that affect a budget. In doing so, I have become an expert with regard to finding ways of yielding a profit without compromising stability and integrity.

I support the district's plans for making the schools accessible for diverse groups. I believe that every child has the potential to succeed. The systems that are in place lead toward the idea that every child should be able to perform in their respective classrooms so they are maintaining academic success regardless of their academic, social, ethnic or economic background. I have a proven ability to lead, innovate and work collaboratively with leaders, teachers, students and parents in the communities.

I am culturally diverse and am bilingual (English/Spanish.) I would support the efforts of building community relations with the Hispanic sector.

What is the top priority of the Valley View Board of Education?

To create better unity between the schools and the community. To bring education back into the homes of America through increased correspondence to our neighbors. I believe that instilling an increased sense of responsibility in the homes will better support our efforts as educators and in doing so we will see test scores rise and the academic goals of Valley View will be met.

What is the Valley View District's strongest asset?

The passion and drive for success that I see from the superintendents, teachers, para-professionals, parent teacher associations, etc.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Valley View District?

The upcoming changes and reform of our educational processes.
What is the most promising element of incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem's plans for academic improvement?

The added focus of support for student achievement allowing our students become better prepared for secondary life.

Richard "Rick" Gougis III

Residence: Romeoville
Occupation: Manages 150 employees and oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in sales
Age: 34
Family Information: Married with two children
Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Dayton
Public & Community Service Activities: Active member of Romeoville Rotary and will serve as President in 2011; Hampton Park Social Athletic Club; parent volunteer at Hermansen Elementary School; currently serves on the Valley View Board of Education and is chair of the Academics and Finance committees and also serves on the Safety, Employee Workplace Safety and the Community Leaders Working Group; board member for Building Academic Achievement within this Generation (BAAWG); and also serves on the auxiliary board for Emerging Life Solutions, a group committed to serving homeless youth in Valley View.

Why are you seeking this office?

To increase the academic opportunities for the district's students so that they can live their dreams and to do this in a responsible, fiscally sound manner that does not burden the taxpayers.

What is the top priority of the Valley View Board of Education?

To increase academic opportunities for our students and to increase our students' academic performance, while being fiscally responsible.

What is the Valley View District's strongest asset?

The kids and all the people who support them, from the teachers to the bus drivers to the parents at home who, like me, want the best schools for our children. The teachers and those professionals who work with our children every day are the heart of our district and I am so honored that the Valley View Council, the group that represents the teachers, paraprofessionals and secretaries, is supporting me in this election.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Valley View District?

It's a combination of two issues. Our academic success is not where we want it and we want to do better and we can do better. At the same time, we have tremendous financial pressures due to the economy and poor state funding of schools. So the balancing of the fiscal restraint with increased desire to improve educational opportunities will take innovative and smart decisions by the school board. That is why I am running with a team of individuals who are committed and superbly qualified to do this.

What is the most promising element of incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem's plans for academic improvement?

I sat on the search committee for superintendent with Board President Steve Quigley. The Board of Education had a vision of the type of Superintendent we wanted to lead our district into the future. Mr. Mitchem's vision and our vision are aligned; we are creating an atmosphere of learning and achievement that will allow our students to achieve their dreams. Our schools will be a place where the whole child will be supported educationally and social-emotionally. When President Quigley and I recommended Mr. Mitchem after reviewing dozens of qualified applications to the entire board, it was clear that his vision and our vision were the same. I will work hard to create and foster collaboration with all stakeholders: Students, parents, teachers, and the community-at-large so we are all working in the same direction on the district's new direction. The most promising is our shared belief system that all of children can learn at a high level inside what will be one of the most rigorous curriculums in the state.

Kenneth Harris

Residence: Bolingbrook
Occupation: Business Administrator with the Illinois Department of Corrections; Owner, Kenneth Harris, CPA
Age: 47
Family Information: Married with three children
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting, Augustana College
Public & Community Service Activities: Volunteer work includes working with the Center of Economic Progress, tax preparer, Joliet office; Diamond Youth Foundation, treasurer; Maywood-Wheaton Alumni Chapter-Guide Right; Bolingbrook Community Basketball, coach; Romeoville Community Basketball, coach; Illinois Trojan Travel Basketball, coach; Junior Achievers through the Illinois CPA Society, and Friends and Neighbors Supporting Students (FANS).

Why are you seeking this office?

I am running for school board member so I can make a difference in the lives of students, tax payers, teachers, and the community as a whole. My mission is to get involved and stay involved. My education, work experience, mentoring, volunteer work, and my desire to make a difference have prepared me to be qualified for school board member. If elected, one of my priorities will be to ensure that each student have the opportunity to receive a quality education while the district copes with budget constraints.

What is the top priority of the Valley View Board of Education?

The budget is one of the issues facing the district. The top priority of the board is the students. We must all work together to find a way to ensure that all students are given the opportunity to receive the best possible education. We will have to set the example. This includes believing in the district by investing and participating by enrolling your own children in the school system.

What is the Valley View District's strongest asset?

One of my favorite things I like about the district is the passion and commitment of the teachers and workers.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Valley View District?

One problem facing the district is bridging the achievement gap while trying to live within the current budget.

What is the most promising element of incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem's plans for academic improvement?

Jim Mitchem has provided the challenge. It's up to us as taxpayers, teachers, students, businesses, and elected officials to accept the challenge. I believe in Mr. Mitchem and his plan for academic improvement and, if elected, I will do all that I can to see that his plan becomes reality.

Steve Quigley

Residence: Bolingbrook
Occupation: Executive Director of a not-for-profit association
Age: 46
Family Information: Married with two grade-school-aged children
Education: Bachelor of Arts & Science in Public Administration, Eastern Illinois University
Public & Community Service Activities: Currently serves on the Valley View Board of Education; Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Education Funding Task Force; board member, Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau; member, United Way Local Government Committee and member, Lions Club. Active in youth athletic programs including baseball and football for seven years. Regular contributor to numerous charities including the Valley View Educational Enrichment Foundation, United Way of Will County, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and American Cancer Society.

Why are you seeking this office?

To further the academic improvement process we have undertaken the past two years and to continue to properly manage the district's monies in a financially sound manner.

What is the top priority of the Valley View Board of Education?

To ensure the district continues its efforts of focusing our resources to the classroom and increase academic success for all our children. This is an absolute must for me and should be for all the board members.

What is the Valley View District's strongest asset?

I believe in our district's diversity and what that can mean to all our students and the dedication of our staff. Also, we are in good shape financially when compared to surrounding districts our size. We need to continue sound management practices that have been implemented the past year and a half.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Valley View District?

Not unlike other districts our size, we must strive to improve our academic success with our available financial resources. We will continue to support co-curricular programs because students need balance both socially and academically. We should continue to find the resources for programs while being sensitive to the fact that a majority of residents do not have school-aged children.

What is the most promising element of incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem's plans for academic improvement?

The focus is on accountability and streamlining how we prepare the students for each successive level. Mr. Mitchem has brought forth a bold plan and we need to ensure the proper tools and staff are there to improve on what we have now.

Claudia Simmons

Residence: Bolingbrook
Occupation: Business Owner
Age: n/a
Family Information: Married with two children
Education: Bachelor of Science & Master's in Educational Leadership
Public & Community Service Activities: Business owner; educator; child advocate; mentor; support of charitable organizations; and attends a faith-based church

Why are you seeking this office?

I would push for higher academic performance aligned to the national core standards. I would also stress the importance of providing the necessary in-school supports and services to promote the students' social and emotional development. In this manner the district's goal for our children will be consistent with that of President Obama, which is that "all" students meet the national education standards. Through well informed decision-making relative to policy formation, educational excellence will be the norm in the Valley View school district.

I would also stress the importance of developing the students' ability to use higher-
ordered thinking skills to be effective problem-solvers. As a business owner I've seen the benefits of employees being effective problem-solvers in a team setting. Our students will be able to compete internationally if they possess the ability to innovate and responsibly solve problems in a team setting.

What is the top priority of the Valley View Board of Education?

All students meet the national education standards.

What is the Valley View District's strongest asset?


What is the biggest challenge facing the Valley View District?

Recruiting, induction (training), and retention of highly-qualified teachers, as well as continuously raising the bar of acceptable teacher and student performance so that our students are internationally competitive.

What is the most promising element of incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem's plans for academic improvement?

Resources and interventions for students to find solutions to better perform, consistently, and effectively in their day-to-day academic performance. Also, Superintendent Mitchem's vision is to raise the bar for education and higher test scores.

Leonel "Leo" Venegas

Residence: Romeoville
Occupation: Regional Sales Manager at a national cable company in Romeoville
Age: 36
Family Information: Married with two children
Education: Attended University of Texas Pan American targeting the core studies of Business Management and Finance, additional training through management development programs
Public & Community Service Activities: Currently serves on the Valley View Board of Education; previously served on the Spanish Community Center Board and Adoption Services Board; background also includes over ten years working with local and state governments

Why are you seeking this office?

To further improve and insure both the academics and financial management of our district.

What is the top priority of the Valley View Board of Education?

Balancing the budget and identify measures that qualify and quantify our academic success.

What is the Valley View District's strongest asset?

The rich diversity of our school district.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Valley View District?

Our finances. The next four years will be very critical in balancing our budget. Our plan is to continue to review and execute on a fiscally responsible plan that does not impact the integrity of the classroom.

What is the most promising element of incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem's plans for academic improvement?

Jim Mitchem's vision and passion are fundamental but the most promising element is the cadence of accountability he brings to our district.

Kenneth Williams

Residence: Bolingbrook
Occupation: Store manager
Age: 40
Family Information: Married with four children
Education: Master of Arts, Organizational Leadership and Supervision, Lewis University and Bachelor of Arts, Organizational Leadership and Supervision, Purdue University
Public & Community Service Activities: Mentor for young men; volunteer coach for boys basketball (Illinois Celtics); Universal Leadership Team member at Jane Adams Middle School;
Yearly Field Day Volunteer at Independence Elementary School; Career Day Speaker at Jane Adams Middle School; FANS Volunteer at Bolingbrook High School and study table volunteer at Bolingbrook High School.

Why are you seeking this office?

I want to be a school board member because I have a passion for young people to excel and reach their full potential. I believe it takes a village to raise and educate a child. Parents, the school, and our entire community need to work together to make sure our children have the best education possible. I also believe that we need to make sure our children can compete with other students all over the country so that they can gain entrance in a higher institution and obtain a college degree. I feel I am qualified to be a school board member because I have a vested interest in our community and educational system. I have children who attend a Valley View School and I want them to receive the best education possible.

What is the top priority of the Valley View Board of Education?

I think the top priority will be working with senior leadership to address the district's budget and assess innovative ways to balance the budget; yet making sure we are providing quality programs, educational resources, and enhancing the learning environment within our schools; so that our educators and staff members are meeting the needs of all students social emotionally and academically.

What is the Valley View District's strongest asset?

The strongest asset of the Valley View School district is the diversity of the community and student body who attend our schools; the highly qualified teachers that go above and beyond the call of duty. The different avenues in which some schools seek to involve the community. The different programs and events that schools within the district have that allow the parents to have a better understanding of what is happening within the school and with the students; the extra-curricular activities that allow students to tap into their gifts and abilities. The road we are on to make sure we have high expectations for all students so that we can close the academic achievement gap.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Valley View District?

Balancing the budget in these trying economic times we all face, while at the same time not taking away anything from the classroom that would hinder a good quality productive learning atmosphere. Also, closing the academic achievement gap within our schools and the different subgroups and making sure all of our schools make adequate yearly progress.

What is the most promising element of incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem's plans for academic improvement?

I think the philosophy of our incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem forces us to take note and view education in the way it was intended and not what it has become or interpreted by some. It forces teachers and educators to examine themselves and evaluate what is the goal of each lesson being taught and what is the intended purpose. It forces our educational system and the administrators, staff and teachers who work with students' everyday to look within and hold each other accountable for a student's success. I think the ultimate goal of what we want our students to achieve is success: How we measure success or the way we measure it is the question? Do we blame the student or do we blame ourselves? When a student is not achieving whose fault is it? We must first look to self and try a new way of thinking. Is the outcome a student learning the skill no matter how they learn it or is the outcome the time it took them to learn that skill and whoever learns it first gets the better grade. Mitchem brings a new way of thinking to some and a level of support to others. He forces accountability to all.

Two candidates for a two-year unexpired term

Chrystal Hansen

Residence: Bolingbrook
Occupation: Development and Operations Pastor
Age: 47
Family Information: Married with three children
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Applied Sociology and Political Science, Lewis University
Public & Community Service Activities: First and foremost serves as first chair and was a founding board member of the Bolingbrook Academic Achievement Working Group (BAAWG),
an organization working to close the achievement gap of students involving the community in grassroots efforts such as college readiness seminars, volunteering as mentors, FANS, lunch buddies, and tutors; serves on the Valley View Area Coalition for Youth (VVACY) Homeless Youth Task Force addressing the problem of homeless youth attending high schools; served as a community member for the Bolingbrook High School Instructional Decision Making for two school years; the Housing Plan to End Homelessness Committee; the Leadership Committee for the Will County Continuum of Care; and founder Emerging Life Solutions, a not-for-profit group committed to serving homeless students in the local area.

Why are you seeking this office?

To aid in helping this community and school district achieve the highest possible academic achievement for students coupled with sound financial spending and budgets.

What is the top priority of the Valley View Board of Education?

The most important priority will be to ensure that every student receives the same opportunities to experience their highest potential for academic achievement positioning them for excellent post secondary education choices.

What is the Valley View District's strongest asset?

Valley View's strongest asset is the passionate teachers who give themselves day after day to educate our children. Through the past 17 years of my children's educational experience in the schools of Valley View, I have met amazing, caring teachers who gave their heart and soul every day to teach my children and many others. Without a doubt each of these teachers contributed to the success of my children's educational experience and prepared them for their future. I strongly believe we need to continue to hire and foster passionate teachers through support and professional development.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Valley View District?

The biggest challenge facing any organization is to achieve the outcomes they were created and designed to accomplish; for the Valley View School District that would be educating all students to meet or exceed the level of college readiness by graduation. Our challenge is not only increasing our students' academic success but also bridging the achievement gap. Coupled with this issue is the reality of the financial pressure and fiscal restraint that is needed in these times. We must learn as a district to do more with less, just as each of us has been forced to manage personal finances in a like manner.

What is the most promising element of incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem's plans for academic improvement?

I believe the most promising element of Mitchem's plan is the accountability component. Accountability is crucial and needed from the top to the bottom of any organization. Jim's willingness to base his own contract on performance and outcomes leads the way and sends a strong message of change. This accountability of outcomes for all staff will bring improvement to the entire school district.

Robert Leach

Residence: Romeoville
Occupation: Journalist
Age: 44
Family Information: Married with two children
Education: I am a high school graduate with some college
Public & Community Service Activities: Served as board vice president of the Spanish Center in Joliet; served as a board member of the Cook County Publishers Association; served as a board member of the Illinois Production Alliance; I have been a youth sport coach in football, baseball and boys and girls basketball.

Why are you seeking this office?

I am seeking the two-year unexpired seat largely due to my dissatisfaction of my children's education to this point, my frustration over growing budget concerns and my general desire to focus on what I believe is our single greatest asset, our school district. Unless we can maintain a balanced budget without refinancing our debt, we are failing beyond the classroom. I believe the Board of Education has a fundamental responsibility to the taxpayers they are supposed to represent both in terms of the quality of education our community's children receive and an obligation to negotiate current and future financial budgets that take into consideration our low testing scores that have plagued our district over the past four years. When I ask myself is my family better off than we were four years ago, the answer is no. I intend to do something about that and not sit on the sidelines waiting for my children's education to improve or receive any tax relief despite my property value plummeting over the same period. If we are to turn our property values upward we must and should start with the largest benefactor of our property tax dollar, the school district, and ensure that our community is a place that will attract future home buyers to this market.

What is the top priority of the Valley View Board of Education?

Simple...balance our budget and reduce our structural debt. The current board voted to refinance our structural debt and extend out the payments which in the short run may look appealing. However, the additional interest we are now saddled with could reach as high as $35 million dollars, I have been told! At what point do we tackle the serious issue of paying down our debt and stabilize our district financials? We cannot live on borrowed monies, we must live within the means the taxpayers provide and make decisions accordingly. It is not impossible for a school district to become bankrupt, if this should happen I ask what will become of our property values in the district at that point? Instead of finding new paths to bury our debts with refinancing opportunities then pointing to the lowered payments as an improvement in our bottom line, works for some, however, it is, in my opinion, financially irresponsible and will lead to higher taxes and dwindling services.

What is the Valley View District's strongest asset?

I believe the strongest asset within the district is the teaching professionals who have and continue to navigate the enormous amount of upheaval at the administrative level while simultaneously changing procedures and classroom obligations to suit incoming leadership. We have seen three principals in five years at Romeoville High School as an example each carrying a different "vision". With each transition of leadership, the teachers have been forced to adapt to the changing environment while maintaining a focus on their students. While difficult, I have personally seen many of these professionals consistently put in added efforts above and beyond their contractual obligation in an effort to improve the education experience for the students. Many are quick to blame the teachers on the front line in the classroom as the reason for low testing scores. While that may seem a simple answer, I do not buy that. At what point does a company look at its management when its stock price tumbles? Are the store clerks an acceptable excuse for a blue chip's failure? If I held stock in a company that blamed their employees for failure I would sell that stock. No, I believe the problem is much more sophisticated than that. I hold stock in this district, driving my desire to roll up my sleeves as a volunteer and get to work understanding my children's education. Future property values depend upon it.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Valley View District?

We are looking failure directly in the face on several fronts. If we are to turn our educational system around and become the success story we should be, we must unite in this common goal and work diligently to correct our past mistakes or face the consequences as a community and a nation. I grew up in a country that is accustomed to taking the lead not following the beaten path. We are Americans and that still means something to me. It is not merely a gift to say I am American, it is a bill we must all pay in order to ensure our nation survives and thrives. I do not take for granted all that was established by those before me to ensure opportunities afforded in my own life, it is my time to pay it forward. The biggest challenge our district has is bringing everyone to the table and leaving with one common goal united in its application and success. In order to accomplish what we set out to, trust, respect and honor cannot be words we simply speak but must be reflected in the actions we make visible from all sides. There is a monumental task ahead and while I do not assign blame, I do believe I am focused on doing my part if the voters so choose on April 5.

What is the most promising element of incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem's plans for academic improvement?

Mr. Mitchem's plan is promising because his plan works to eliminating the marginalization of struggling students however I am cautiously optimistic of its application. What I know of incoming Superintendent Jim Mitchem is that he is a success story and has achieved much in his life to this point. If his professional career is any indication of his future success leading the district to greater heights, then I am encouraged his plan will show progress on that front.

The Bolingbrook girls' basketball game has done it twice in a row - can they do it one more time?

The Lady Raiders, who are seeking their third straight state title and their fourth in the last five years, will go up against arch rival Whitney Young in an 8:15 p.m. Friday contest. Zion-Benton and Maine South will play in the other semi. The third place and championship games will be Saturday night.

All tickets are $10 per person per session and are good for general admission. There is no reserved seating.

Tickets for this weekend's Illinois High School Association girls Class 4A state basketball championships at Illinois State University are available through the athletic director's office at Bolingbrook High School.

Fans who cannot make the game should sign up to follow VVSD's Twitter account ( Community Relations Director Larry Randa will be "tweeting" from courtside. If you wish to receive VVSD tweets via cell phone, be sure to add that function to your Twitter-following functions.

The game will also be broadcast live on WJOL Radio, 1340 AM, with Scott Slocum handling the play-by-play.

If you can't make it to the game, you can still be part of the excitement! Win or lose this weekend, the Lady Raiders will be honored for another outstanding season at a community-wide celebration at 2 p.m. Sunday in the BHS gymnasium. The celebration is open to anyone who wishes to attend.


By R.L. Anderson

ROMEOVILLE - Incoming superintendent James Mitchem Jr. has found the man to step into his shoes as principal of Bolingbrook High School.

The Valley View School Board approved hiring Fabby Williams to replace Mitchem who will officially become superintendent July 1st.

Williams' salary will be $150,000 which includes contributions into the teachers' retirement system. Currently, Williams is interim principal at Austin PolyTech Academy in the Chicago Public School system.

"Here's my commitment to you," Williams told the school board Monday night. "I want you to hold me accountable for the education all of our students will receive. My promise it to make sure every classroom at Bolingbrook High School will have a very good and effective teacher who cares about the children. It's more than just teaching them how to write or hot to read. It's about caring about them as people, as individuals."

Williams has an extensive educational experience in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina. He is a candidate for a doctorate of education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and he holds a master's degree in educational leadership, a masters in education and a bachelor of social work - all from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC.

The board unanimously approved Williams hire as well as three other administrative posts at Monday night's meeting.

Of the four positions, two were filled with current district employees and two by newcomers.

New promotions

Rachel Kinder will be the new assistant superintendent for curriculum grades, 6-12. Her salary will be $150,000 which includes contributions into the teachers' retirement system
Kinder, who is the assistant principal at Bolingbrook High School, has a master's degree in educational administration from Governors State, and a master's in instructional leadership and a bachelor's degree in Spanish translation and business from the University of Illinois-Chicago.

"The mission before us is clear. Be honest in analyzing where we stand, capitalize on our strengths, and confront those things that do no support the mission that all students can and will learn when given the right opportunity to do so," Kinder said.

"The most critical component of this is the belief that it can be done. I believe we can meet the challenge and, most importantly, I believe in our students," she said. "I believe in all of our students that they can leave us ready for college and careers if we engage them and respond to their needs."

The new assistant director of bilingual education will be Yadira Mata who is currently a ESL/bilingual teacher at Brooks Middle School.

Mata has been at Brooks Middle School for five years where she has been the Valley
View Adult ESL class coordinator for middle schools and one of the district's bilingual parent council coordinators.

Mata holds a master's degree in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in English as a Second Language Education from Concordia University and master's in educational leadership and a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of St. Francis. Her salary will be $81,975, which includes contributions into the teachers' retirement system.

Brooks new leader

The new principal at Brooks Middle School will be Keith Wood who replaces Ron Krause who retires in June. Wood will earn $120,000 which includes TRS contributions.

"I look forward to using my skills and talents to uphold that mission and to be of service to the students and faculty of Brooks and, in turn, to the district," Wood said. "I want to assure you that I have the will to do things that are necessary to meet expectations, to not let the students' backgrounds or prior experiences serve as a barrier to learning."

Wood has been principal at MacArthur Middle School in Berkley, IL for the past seven years. He holds a doctorate in educational administration from Loyola University. He has a master's in school administration and a bachelor's in elementary education from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is an adjunct professor in supervision, research and ethics at Concordia University and a former math instructor at Triton College.

The appointments are effective July 1 except for Mata's who begins her new duties on August 1.

Mitchem said dozens of candidates were considered for the four positions.

"We have made excellent additions to our team," Mitchem said. "We were looking for specific qualities and each of these individuals brought those traits to the table.

Changes in Valley View

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It's not a surprise that there will be changes in administration for next school year in Valley View School District because the school board is not happy with test scores and student achievement.

James Mitchem Jr., the incoming superintendent, will be announcing those changes to staff on Feb. 22.

Meanwhile, one person has an announcement of her own.

Faith Dahlquist, assistant superintendent for curriculum, has accepted a position for the 2011-12 school year as assistant superintendent of educational services in Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District.

Dahlquist, who has been with VVSD since 1995, will continue in her current position through the end of June.

"Faith's experience and professional dedication to students and staff, as well as her extensive curriculum knowledge, will be greatly missed," said Superintendent Phil Schoffstall in a press release. "We extend to Faith our best wishes as she assumes new opportunities in the new assignment."

Dahlquist, who assumed her current position last summer after serving as assistant superintendent for grades K-5 for three years, was principal and associate principal at Independence Elementary School in Bolingbrook for 12 years. She has taught fourth grade, sixth grade and high school algebra in three Illinois school districts.

To read the story about Mitchem's upcoming address go to:

Here's a chance to ask some questions and be heard.

State Rep. Emily McAsey (D-Lockport) and Romeoville Mayor John Noak will be special guests at a Irene King Town Hall meeting at 10 a.m. Feb. 5 at the new Romeoville municipal complex, 1050 W. Romeo Road.

With an emphasis on two-way conversation, the meeting will focus on one central theme: Everyone has a stake in the education of our children.

Irene King Principal April Vacik and Assistant Principal Jeremy Majeski will take an up-close look at the school's educational progress as well as future plans. Rep. McAsey and Mayor Noak will also speak and be available for questions.

Refreshments will be provided, courtesy of the Village of Romeoville.

Because space is limited, reservations are required by contacting Tiffany Wright at 815-886-3380 or

A challenge was filed by George Smith to the petitions of Valley View school board members Steve Quigley, Rick Gougis and Leo Venegas.

Quigley is currently school board president.

In Valley View School District, there are three four-year seats and one two-year seat that are open. Board member Mike Evans is not running.

Eight folks are seeking one of the three four-year seats:

Incumbent Steve Quigley, of 124 Pepperwood Drive, Bolingbrook
Incumbent Leonel "Leo" Venegas, of 802 Ontario Drive, Romeoville
Incumbent Richard "Rick" Gougis, III, of 1670 Aster Drive, Romeoville
April Gavin, of 229 N. Schmidt Road, Bolingbrook
Philip A. Wilson, of 382 Clubhouse St., Bolingbrook
Claudia Simmons, of 381 Orchard Drive, Bolingbrook
Kenneth Harris, of 222 Carol Lane, Bolingbrook
Kenneth Williams, of 553 Bluebird Drive, Bolingbrook

There are two people seeking the 2-year seat

Chrystal Hansen, of 418 Foxborough Trail, Bolingbrook
Robert Leach, of 278 Malibu Drive, Romeoville

We've all heard that the early bird catches the worm, but when it comes to elections - the early candidate gets a chance to get his or her name placed first on the ballot.

Seven candidates filed first thing Monday morning for the four Valley View School District seats that will be contested in the April 5 election.

Candidates have until 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20 to file their petitions. Nineteen have taken out petitions over the past several months, said Spokesman Larry Randa.

A lottery will be held to determine the top ballot position for the three 4-year seats that will be on the ballot. Included in that lottery will be Romeoville residents Richard "Rick" Gougis III and Leonel "Leo" Venegas as well as Bolingbrook residents Phillip A. Wilson, Claudia Simmons, April Gavin and Steve Quigley. Quigley, Gougis and Venegas are incumbents.

Chrystal Hansen of Bolingbrook was the only candidate who filed for the two-year seat and, as such, will be in the number one position on the ballot for that race.

After the first round of early morning candidates, Kenneth Harris, of Bolingbrook, also filed for one of the four-year seats, but won't he won't be part of the lottery for the first place on the ballot.

Petitions for candidates who want to run in the election are still available by visiting the office of Delorise Ivy, board clerk, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. this week at the administration center, 755 Dalhart Ave. (formerly Luther Drive) in Romeoville.


In Plainfield School District, there will be a lottery to determine the place on the ballot for three candidates.

Those candidates are: Greg Nichols, of Plainfield; Incumbent David Obrzut, of Plainfield and Incumbent Roger Bonuchi, of Plainfield.
William P. Dargan Jr., of Plainfield, is also running.

Petitions must be filed by 5 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Administration Center, 15732 Howard St.
Three seats on the seven-member board are up for election The seats up for election are currently held by school board President Stuart Bledsoe, Obrzut and Bonuchi. Candidates elected will serve four-year terms expiring in April 2015.


In Joliet Township High School District, there were six candidates who filed for three spots. Those candidates were: Don Dickinson, of Joliet; John Gerard Linehan, of Joliet; Jeff Pierson, of Joliet; Paige Stonich-Vanderhyden, of Elwood and Arlene Albert, of Joliet, and Chet June, of Joliet. Incumbents are Pierson, Albert and June. The only two in the lottery will be Don Dickinson and John Linehan. The lottery will be held on Dec. 27. The last day to file is Dec. 20. The office at 300 Caterpillar Drive will be open until 5 p.m.

Joliet Grade

There were only two folks who filed in Joliet Grade School District. Norveea Clerk, of Joliet, for the At-Large seat and Incumbent Tony Pena for the East Side seat. In total, there are four spots open. Two on the East Side, one At Large and one on the West Side. The district office, 420 N. Raynor, will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.

If you hear word that the Bolingbrook High School is locked down Thursday morning, well, it's just a routine search. There is no danger, said Larry Randa, director of community relations for Valley View School District.

Bolingbrook High School is conducting a soft lockdown for the purposes of a routine search of lockers by state and local law enforcement authorities, Randa said. Though not a drill, this is a routine procedure conducted at least one time annually at most high schools.

Valley View School Board named their new superintendent Monday night.

James Mitchem, principal at Bolingbrook High School, will be the next superintendent of Valley View School District.

Mitchem's appointment was confirmed unanimously by the school board. Mitchem will succeed Phillip Schoffstall, who has announced his retirement effective no later than June 30.

"We're expecting great things from Jim," said school board President Steve Quigley in a press release. "We like his no-nonsense approach and his attitude that we can do more for our children. He has a firm grip on the things that are needed to make our district better."

A graduate of DePaul University with a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in educational leadership, Mitchem is currently pursuing his doctorate as well as his superintendent certification from Argosy University.

Quigley said the board reviewed roughly 20 applicants, narrowing the choices to three before selecting Mitchem who was the only finalist from within the school district.

"Sometimes you don't have to look very far to find what you're seeking," Quigley said, adding the board moved quickly "because we wanted to get this moving along so we could have a transition period" during which Mitchem will shadow Schoffstall.

"I anxiously await my opportunity to make a difference for our children in a way that will ultimately prepare them for the rigor of post secondary life," Mitchem told the board at Monday's meeting. "Being called upon to lead really means being called upon to serve. I will serve this district with all I have to give."

Mitchem started his career in Valley View in 1980 as a physical education and health teacher at both Romeoville and Bolingbrook high schools where he also coached basketball, baseball, track, badminton and volleyball.

The Bolingbrook resident began his administrative career in 1985 as dean of students at Romeoville High School, a position he held for nine years before becoming administrative dean of students for one year.

Following a three-year stint as director of athletic academic advising at his alma mater, DePaul University, Mitchem returned to Valley View in 1999 as assistant principal for student affairs at BHS. A year later he became principal of what was then B.J. Ward Middle School in Bolingbrook, and in 2002 he was named principal of Romeoville High School Mitchem became principal of Bolingbrook High School in July 2006.

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Catherine Ann Velasco

Catherine Ann Velasco has covered education and children and family issues for The Herald-News since 1997. She keeps an eye on schools in Will and Grundy counties. Her best stories always come from readers’ tips or public comment during a board meeting. So if there’s some good news or bad news at your school – she’d like to know. Join the conversation about the twists and turns and surprises that pop up on her beat. And, find some extra news that she just can’t wait to tell you.


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