KIRKLAND – Hiawatha School District 426 will have a new superintendent July 1, after the school board appointed Theodore “Chip” Hickman to lead the 580-student district.
Board President Ryan Block said there were seven candidates selected from a total of 35 applicants. The Illinois State Board of Education conducted the preliminary selection process. Block said he was impressed with the research Hickman did before the interviews.
“He was well prepared and had done his homework,” he said. “He got specifics of where Hiawatha sits financially and where we want to go.”
Hickman also has experience in area school districts. He spent 10 years working in the Fox Valley area, working as an associate principal at Batavia High School and principal at Kaneland High School. He also has experience in the Rockford School District.
“We think he is a great fit for us,” Block said.
Hickman will replace interim school superintendent Wayne Riesen. Sarah Willey announced her retirement from the position in February of last year with a base salary of $110,000. Hickman’s compensation package is comparable. He will make $142,000 including base salary, vacation time, health insurance and other benefits, Block said. A copy of the contract was not immediately available Tuesday.
Hickman said that he likes the small-town aspect of the district. District 426 is located in Kirkland, operates two schools and serves about 580 students, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.
“When I had a chance to meet the board members, I immediately began to feel that connection,” Hickman said. “I have worked with residents within the Hiawatha district in other capacities and I had an interest in the small, hometown values and how the community comes around students to help them grow.”
Hickman said that his main priority in his first year would be to focus on the district’s financial standing and improve student achievement.
“It’s well known that schools across the state are struggling financially,” Hickman said. “I want to engage the community in a strategic planning process to shape a viewpoint of where we want to be.”