DeKALB – Doug Moeller kicked off each year he was principal of DeKalb High School by giving students his cellphone number over the intercom.
“I said: ‘Please text; I’d prefer you text. If you call with a blocked number, I won’t respond to you,’ ”said Moeller, who was principal from 2009 to 2012. “It really helped a lot of students who maybe felt marginalized that they knew they could go directly to the principal if they had an issue.”
He wanted to be accessible to students, and it’s a value he plans to carry on in his future role as superintendent at DeKalb School District 428. After two years as assistant superintendent for curriculum and student services, he’s set to become superintendent when current Superintendent Jim Briscoe retires in June. Briscoe has led the district for six years.
Briscoe and Moeller speak highly of each other: Moeller values Briscoe’s legacy of building partnerships with other community entities, from a meeting Tuesday with Northern Illinois University leaders to being a founding member of the local Partnership for Healthy Communities.
Meanwhile, Briscoe complimented Moeller’s work shepherding the new DeKalb High School through the building process, aligning curriculum to the Common Core standards and planning to make technology more prominent in everyday learning.
As spring approaches, Briscoe plans to let Moeller take a more central role to make the transition as smooth as possible. He’ll definitely let him have the final say for decisions about programs and procedures for next year.
“Most of the time we’ll agree, but at the end of the day, it will end up in his lap,” Briscoe said. “We work so closely together that that hasn’t been an issue and it probably won’t be for the rest of the year.”
Meanwhile, Moeller started the search for his replacement about two days after the school board approved his hire and signed him to a four-year contract Sept. 17.
He wants to find an assistant superintendent with a background in learning and elementary education to compliment his background as a high school teacher and dean with a doctorate in school administration.
He’ll have candidates interview with other leaders in the community, but he hopes to have a replacement chosen by the holidays. That person wouldn’t start until July 1, but could start attending school board meetings and other events to learn about D-428’s culture.
“We need to have someone who is going to come in and be comfortable with the direction in which we’re heading, be comfortable with that vision and move it forward,” Moeller said.
Moeller’s own start with D-428’s culture involved plenty of long hours. On top of traditional principal responsibilities, he played a key role in the construction of the $80 million high school on West Dresser Road. He and former athletic director Dan Jones worked seven days a week, often 10 hours a day or more, Moeller said.
“It was just a phenomenal amount of work,” Moeller said. “I remember standing in the middle of a muddy field, about where the 50-yard line of the football stadium was going to be. There had not been any work done on the site and [I was] thinking: ‘OK, in two years we’re going to have this beautiful facility.’ ”
That work ethic is one of the things school board member Mary Hess appreciates about him. Hess joined the board this spring, but met Moeller in 2009 when both participated in the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Academy.
“He’s not a 9-to-5 guy in any way,” Hess said. “He works until the job’s done and takes the time to look into different resources for any particular topic he’s working on to make sure he has all areas and all perspectives covered.”
About Doug Moeller
Lives in: DeKalb
Education: Bachelor’s degree in math and economics from Northern Illinois University, master’s degree from Aurora University and doctorate from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Interesting fact: Moeller served in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years