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updated: 5/6/2010 10:52 AM

Prairie Crossing Charter School names new director

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Prairie Crossing Charter School's new executive director will be a man who formerly served as an administrator in the West Indies.

Nigel Whittington will replace the retiring Myron Dagley beginning July 1. Dagley has led the Grayslake public choice school since August 2006.

Whittington most recently was deputy head of school at Island Academy in Antigua, West Indies, in the 2008-09 academic year. Prairie Crossing officials said Whittington is finishing his master's degree work in educational administration at University of Idaho.

Prairie Crossing officials said a nationwide search for the new executive director was conducted before they settled on Whittington and approved his hiring at a meeting last week.

Board President Geoff Deigan said the goal is for Whittington to build on a strong foundation that's been set by Dagley, who joined Prairie Crossing in a part-time role in 2004 after retiring from Waukegan Unit District 60 as deputy superintendent.

"We feel Nigel's experience and vision are well suited to strengthen our constructivist learning approach and intensify our unique method of high-quality public education curricula centered in the environment," Deigan said.

Whittington, who couldn't be reached for comment, earned a long-distance bachelor's degree from The Open University, based in the United Kingdom. A full-time educator for about 30 years, he went on to receive teaching credentials from University of Oxford, according to Prairie Crossing.

Open since 1999, Prairie Crossing serves kindergarten through eighth grade with an environmentally focused curriculum, and is one of 35 small choice public schools in Illinois. It is Lake County's only charter school.

Prairie Crossing's 360 students mostly come from within the boundaries of Woodland Elementary District 50 and Fremont Elementary District 79, with enrollment decided by lottery. Tuition is charged only for students outside of Fremont and Woodland.

As for Dagley, he said he one of his accomplishments at Prairie Crossing was helping to secure a five-year charter renewal from the Illinois State Board of Education in 2009.

Traditional public schools aren't required to seek state approval to stay open in five-year increments. Smaller, nontraditional charter schools must go through the process.

In addition, he said, there now is a high level of satisfaction from parents regarding communication from school officials. He said the Prairie Crossing staff also appears satisfied.

"I think the staff are more united now, overall, than when I inherited the (director's) seat," Dagley said.

Lack of pay is cited as the chief reason more than half of Prairie Crossing's 27 certified staffers this year signed cards to become a unit of the Lake County Federation of Teachers union. Officials expect a state agency to grant the request.