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Local

Sycamore School District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman retiring after next school year

John Burkey of the Large Unit District Associate presents his recommendations of administration organizational structure to the Sycamore School District 427 Board of Education during their meeting Tuesday night at Sycamore Middle School.
John Burkey of the Large Unit District Associate presents his recommendations of administration organizational structure to the Sycamore School District 427 Board of Education during their meeting Tuesday night at Sycamore Middle School.

SYCAMORE – Talks of what new positions should be created and what the administrative structure should look like comes after the Sycamore School District 427 superintendent confirmed her plans to retire after next year.

John Burkey, who is with the Large Unit District Association, presented his recommendations of administration organizational structure to the District 427 Board during its meeting Tuesday night at Sycamore Middle School. The recommendations come after a soft announcement that Superintendent Kathy Countryman is retiring after the 2019-20 school year.

After looking at a dozen districts in the state that are of similar size as Sycamore’s, Burkey said his main recommendation for the District 427 was to consider hiring a dedicated human relations director, which the district does not have but most districts of similar size do. He said the position could help the district ensure it keeps a level of compliance and consistently helps to make employees better.

“Because, without a doubt, the quality of any school district is directly proportional to the quality of the staff,” Burkey said.

Burkey said the bottom line is that, despite how nice of facilities any district has, students are learning because of the teachers and workers in the building and not because of the building’s quality.

For example, Burkey said, one of the most important people that a child will encounter is their bus driver because the driver is the first person the child sees in the morning. If the driver greets the student with a smile, it can help set the tone for the child’s whole day, he said.

“We cannot underestimate the importance of our staff,” Burkey said.

Countryman said she still handles a lot of human relations matters within the district, which was a duty that carried over from when she previously was assistant superintendent for the district. She said she will continue to track her commitments going forward to see how much time it would free up for the new superintendent to visit other districts and attend conferences if he or she didn’t have to attend to HR matters.

Board President Jim Dombek said Burkey’s comments are falling in line with what district officials have been thinking of doing in terms of restructuring the organizational chart for the district’s lean administrative staff. He said Burkey’s suggestions reinforced the board’s concerns.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Dombek said.

No action was taken on the matter Tuesday. Dombek said he wanted position-creating discussions to continue as the search for a new superintendent begins.

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