DeKALB – Coming from a small town, Richard “Jamie” Craven got to wear a lot of hats.
“In a small town, you had an opportunity to do a lot of things,” the newly appointed superintendent of DeKalb School District 428 said. “I was a three-sport athlete, sang in the choir and was in three high school musicals. You had to learn how to fish, bale hale and learn the qualities of hard work, because in a farming community, it’s not a 9-to-5 job. You work until the work is done.”
Craven donned his new hat of DeKalb superintendent after his three-year contract was narrowly approved during the D-428 board’s June 6 meeting by a 4-3 vote. Board President Victoria Newport and members Kerry Mellott and Jeff Hallgren voted no.
“Regardless of how the vote was, my job is still the same, and that’s to prove to the board, administration, faculty and community that I was the right choice,” Craven said. “I’m spending some days here and there, but I’m anxious for July to get here so my sole focus is the DeKalb school district.”
Craven’s contract starts July 1. He replaces Superintendent Doug Moeller, who resigned April 30 after being put on paid leave in September after accusations of sexual harassment.
Although he is aware of the information that has been made public surrounding the scandal, Craven said he is not concerned with the past.
“I can’t change what has occurred, and I think my longevity at Rochelle speaks for itself,” he said. “My job is to come here and build a strong administrative team and just start moving forward. I can’t speak for all of the stakeholders of the community but what happened happened, and let’s just go forward.”
Craven began his career at LaSalle-Peru Township High School District 120, teaching biology and coaching football and girls track. A year later, he ended up at Rochelle Township High School District 212 after his friend, Kevin Crandall, was offered the head football coaching job. The school and Crandall wanted Craven to come with him.
After his first year, he became the assistant principal and continued to coach football and boys track. Craven then served as the school’s principal for three years before ascending to the position of district superintendent for the next 10 years.
Having been involved with football programs for so long, Craven said he looks forward to continuing a friendly rivalry with Sycamore High School football coach Joe Ryan at events such as the annual Castle Challenge fundraiser, during which each district’s football and basketball teams compete against each other.
“I’ve coached against Joe for many years, but I don’t care if we play them in horseshoes, we want to win,” Craven said. “He’s been a friend of mine for a long time, and I respect the heck out of him, but I still want to beat him during competition.”
Craven only has been working in the district for a few days, but he has had the opportunity to tour DeKalb High School and Clinton Rosette Middle School, and said he is starting to get his feet wet with all of the district’s other schools, too.
“DeKalb has great schools, and there are great people within each building,” Craven said. “The community has a lot to be proud of and we have to be great promoters. We can’t solely rely on the local media to be sole promoter of the great things going on in our schools.”
Craven, his wife, Jodee, and their four daughters will not be making the move to DeKalb just yet. The board has offered him time to allow his two high school-aged daughters, one a senior and one a junior, to graduate before making the transition.
Outside of work, Craven said he enjoys working on his home garden and playing golf.
“The thing I like about golf is that you’re competing against yourself and your last best round,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a game that can be mastered, at least by me, but that’s the constant challenge.”