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updated: 5/4/2010 10:50 AM

Logeman preparing to step down after 26 years as Lisle High principal

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  • Ron Logeman is preparing to step down after 26 years as principal at Lisle Senior High School. "It probably will be a little harder than I think to walk out the door," he says.

      Ron Logeman is preparing to step down after 26 years as principal at Lisle Senior High School. "It probably will be a little harder than I think to walk out the door," he says.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer


There's a black-and-white framed photograph behind Ron Logeman's desk in the principal's office at Lisle Senior High School.

It shows three members of the St. Louis Cardinals - Tim McCarver, Ken Boyer and starting pitcher Bob Gibson - celebrating their 7-5 victory over the New York Yankees in the decisive seventh game of the 1964 World Series.

The photo was a gift from Logeman's wife, Debbie, and it may tell you a little something about the man who placed it on the wall.

Sure, Logeman's a Cardinals fan, but it's more than that.

Look at the picture and you'll see very happy and very tired men celebrating a hard-fought victory. Look closer and you'll see three athletes who know something some of us never learn: No matter how talented you are, you're only as good as the rest of your team.

As he prepares to retire after 32 years at Lisle High School, including the past 26 as principal, Ron Logeman is happy and tired, too.

And like the Cardinals in the picture on his wall, he knows the importance of team.

'I really, truly cared'

The student is standing in the principal's doorway with a perplexed look on her face. "Why are you leaving us?" she asks. "Is everything OK?"

Sit across a table from Logeman for an hour or so and you emerge with the feeling everything is OK, that he's a man at peace with his past, his present and his future.

You don't leave someplace after 32 years without some emotions occasionally bubbling up, but on this day, leaning back in an open-neck shirt, he couldn't be more relaxed.

He seems to be one of the lucky ones, someone who has come to grips with leaving a job he cares about on his own terms and his own timetable.

Still, when it comes time to pack up, he says, "it probably will be a little harder than I think to walk out the door."

He insists he has no specific plans for retirement. Maybe he and Debbie will travel a little more - he hasn't seen the Cardinals play in the new Busch Stadium yet - but there's really nothing pressing on his plate.

When he steps down June 30, he'll hand the keys to his office to Pete Sullivan, a longtime educator from Lockport. Sullivan is a former principal who moved into his district's central office and now wants to get back closer to the classroom.

The two men have been preparing for months for the transition.

There are times, Logeman admits, when it seems the end of June will never arrive. There are other times when it seems to be coming too quickly, with too much left to do.

If he has his way, when he walks out the door for the last time as principal, Logeman will leave a simple legacy.

"I would like people to recognize I really, truly cared about the students and the people who work here," he says. "I've had a lot of people tell me they wish I wasn't leaving. I guess that's better than having people be happy when you're gone."

Leaving a legacy

Logeman's legacy, of course, will be much more than that. After 26 years at the school's helm, his influence is almost everywhere.

"The culture of this school is, to a fairly significant degree, a reflection of Ron's personality," says Assistant Principal Mark Cunningham, who has worked with him for 11 years.

If you want to work with Logeman, if you want to work at Lisle High School, there are a few basic rules. You've got to function in a collaborative atmosphere, a place where different viewpoints are respected and where office doors are seldom closed. And you darn well better be willing to establish personal relationships with each of your students.

"There are things he lives by," Cunningham says. "He accepts people as they are and he tries to emphasize the things they do well."

More important, Cunningham says, his boss stresses that "what we're looking for on a daily basis is a little bit of progress ... are we getting somewhere?"

"His focus is always on children and student learning," says Logeman's boss, Superintendent Patricia Wernet. "He's compassionate and a wonderful listener with a passion for doing what's right for kids.

"He never uses the pronoun 'I' - it's always about 'we.'"

Man of steel

Logeman grew up in downstate Metropolis - the home of Superman - where he attended a small high school. So when he arrived in Lisle more than three decades ago, the place almost immediately felt like home.

The school was an ideal fit for the young teacher and the community was an ideal fit for his young family.

All these years later, not much has changed. There's still a soft downstate tinge to his voice and the town and school still fit like a comfortable pair of jeans.

Logeman didn't always want to be an educator. He started out studying pre-med at the University of Illinois, "but it didn't feel right," he says.

He was the kind of guy who really liked two things: football and reading, so it occurred to him he might want to pursue a career that incorporated both. You know, something like teaching and coaching.

He arrived in Lisle as an English teacher and spent five years in that role, including a stint as department chair. He moved up to assistant principal for a year and then became the head honcho at what is now a 530-student school.

He felt it was important to live in the town where he worked and all three of his children went to school here. He has pictures of them on a wall in his office and he can't walk to or from his desk without passing them.

He's a proud dad, and with good reason: Matt is receiving a doctorate in physical therapy, Drew is graduating from the University of Illinois and headed to medical school at Loyola and his married daughter, Courtney Multhaupt, is teaching English, yearbook and newspaper - at Lisle Senior High School.

"I love working with him and seeing him on a daily basis," she says. "I know that I can go to him with any situation and he will provide useful and relevant advice. He is my role model and inspiration. I have cherished the last five years that we have worked together."

Comfort levels

"Mr. Logeman," the student says, "can I wear a temporary tattoo?"

"Where would it be," the principal asks.

"On my cheek," the student says.

"What would it be?"

"A Cubs logo."

The principal looks at the St. Louis Cardinals mug he carries everywhere. He sighs.

"OK," he says.

You can argue all day about what type of high school provides the better education - a big one with thousands of students or a smaller one like Lisle's. If you insist, Logeman probably could take either side of the argument. But the bottom line is this: He prefers the comfort level he finds in his building.

"We're a small school and that creates a level of familiarity," he says. "We try to take a team approach to get to know the kids better. We try to build relationships with the kids and help them be successful. We get to know the kids really well and maybe even their families."

After 26 years, of course, Logeman has seen his share of changes in almost every aspect of education.

"Especially as administrators, we do so much more today to identify the needs of our students and then work with them on those needs," he says.

Kids who decades ago may have slipped through the cracks are no longer so easily overlooked.

"We have a responsibility to work with all of our kids to be successful," he says.

He's also been around long enough to see vast growth in special education programs. When he began his career in the late 1970s, the whole concept was still in its infancy.

"Special education has become far more focused and we've created more opportunities both in and out of the classroom," he says.

Technology has obviously changed, too. Logeman clearly remembers when computers first started showing up in administrators' offices. People would gather around the screen and stare at it like an artifact from an archaeological dig and speak in hushed tones about how it might someday be used as an educational tool.

Now, of course, technology not only allows educators to deliver and manage more information, it helps keep teachers fresh by encouraging and challenging them to find new and better ways to present learning opportunities.

"When I was in high school, the teacher was seen as the person with the information," he says. Today, he says, teachers focus more on helping students learn how to get and use that information.

At Lisle, teachers from different departments are working together more than ever to develop curriculum and they're using more hard data than ever before to measure their success.

Teamwork - there's that word again - has never been more important.

Measuring progress

Not everything is milk and honey, of course. There's more pressure than ever, both on students and faculty, to perform.

Ask Logeman about his greatest concerns for students in 2010 and he'll tell you it's "the set of expectations placed on kids to do so much all the time."

There's increased focus to produce tangible results with regard to grades and ACT scores, he says, "and maybe a little too much emphasis on whether you won or not."

There are times, he says, when students don't have time to simply enjoy learning because they're too caught up in numbers.

There are new challenges for the faculty, too, including the principal.

"Sometimes I feel a little bit like the dad of the school," he says, sorting through problems of all sizes and performing triage like someone in a M*A*S*H unit.

"I get frustrated by people who want to make it a fight before it needs to be a fight," he says. "They always look at the negative side of the issue."

He knows he can't always make everyone happy, but in the end it comes down to what he feels is best for the students.

"When you graduate from high school it's a milestone, but it's not a capstone," he says. "It's not the end of anything. There's a bigger picture view."

Career highlight

When you've been someplace for 32 years, you can't help but look back a little when you're planning to retire.

Logeman doesn't hesitate when asked to name his best moment: It was the first time the Lions basketball team went downstate.

His son Matt was a senior and co-captain on that team, but Logeman says it was more than that.

"I've never seen the school so excited," he says. "You just feel so good for kids who are accomplishing something special."

The team caught fire about midseason, and just kept rolling. It was all something of a surprise, which made it all a little sweeter.

"They demonstrated what you can do when you believe in them and push them" he says. "It's kind of what it's all about."

He got that same feeling the other night when he was at a school event and three former students came up to him and told him how the lessons they learned in his speech classes helped them later in life.

That's the kind of thing that sticks with you, makes you realize it was all worth it.

"I think the kids get it," he says. "They know when somebody cares about them ... and they know that's basically how they're going to be treated here. They know you believe in them and that you're kind of counting on them."

Saying thank you

The administrator is talking to one of his new teachers.

"I have a tip for you," the administrator says.

The teacher is all ears.

"You smile too much," the administrator says.

Logeman didn't listen.

Through both the good and bad times, he's kept the smile and tried to work with his team to find the best possible solution to every problem.

When he was a teacher, he tried to keep students involved in each aspect of the learning process. He's never changed that approach.

He's also remained a humble guy, someone who isn't entirely comfortable with the spotlight. When he agreed to talk about his career with a reporter, he made it clear he was doing it largely to take the opportunity to say thank you to his school, his community and his family for all of their support.

"This is just one big, huge, collaborative effort and people have supported me in countless ways," he says. "I really enjoyed coming here every day and working with the people I did."

"I'd like to thank the community for accepting me and my family and sort of embracing us as a community," he says.

"My wife and my kids' support throughout all of these years gave me the energy and help I needed to be successful. Most of all, without them, I wouldn't have been able to be an effective principal."

Make me smile

There's another black-and-white framed photograph behind Ron Logeman's desk in the principal's office at Lisle Senior High School.

It's of another St. Louis Cardinal, but this one is from before Logeman's time. The player's name is Enos Slaughter.

He's sliding home.

When Logeman packs up that picture in a few weeks - as he prepares to slide off toward home - it's possible somebody will ask him for some parting words of wisdom.

"When things are dark, walk out the door and down the hall into the Commons," he will say. "Find a kid somewhere who will make you smile."