Even while students are still working summer jobs, hanging out at the pool and sleeping late, Lynne Panega is gearing up for the 2010-11 school year.
As the new superintendent of Lake Park High School District 108, Panega said she wants to hit the ground running.
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So in addition to meeting with community groups and planning ways to improve Lake Park with the school board, Panega sat down with the Daily Herald to explain a bit more about how she hopes to help students succeed.
This is an edited version of the discussion with Panega.
Q. You were formerly associate superintendent before stepping into the role of superintendent. Can you explain the difference between the two posts?
A. My former position was more focused on curriculum assessment and instruction. This post is much more broad and deals with all aspects of the school.
Q. You've been with Lake Park's administration since 2004, so is there anything you're particularly proud of that has happened at the school during these years?
A. I am proud of two things. First, I point to all of the school improvement initiatives we have created. This is year three of the curriculum changes, affecting the juniors just coming in this fall. (The Lancer Design for Excellence is a curriculum overhaul created to focus on preparing students for college-level work and raising test scores.)
I love to see those things taking hold. And I think the teachers really deserve so much credit, because implementing something like this is very difficult when you have your favorite thing to teach or a favorite way of doing a lesson and then that must change. I may have established the vision, but the staff made this a reality.
We are now focusing on college readiness and the bar is definitely raised, especially in the public arena. People want to see results and want students to succeed and we are being held accountable. Public education is under the microscope and we are very aware of that.
The second thing I am proud of is the department leadership model (similar to a department chairman system), which was implemented during contract negotiations with our teachers last year.
This is a big cultural change for Lake Park that means all eight departments will be represented by leaders that offer additional support, clear lines of communication and on-the-ground leadership.
Q. What is the biggest challenge you face in your new role?
A. I think the biggest challenge from where I sit is striking the balance between my new post and my old post, which is not being filled. I think that was the right decision because we are a one-high school district and I am up for the challenge.
But my goal is to build a positive relationship with all the Lake Park stakeholders, which includes the board, teachers, administrators, students and the community. It is a very public position.
Q. Can you tell us a little about your background?
A. This my 28th year in education. My mom was a sixth-grade English teacher and the funny thing is I never wanted to be a teacher because of that. But then a teacher I had in high school really influenced me and now I think, "What a great career" because - even though I'm an administrator now - you're always a teacher.
I grew up in the south suburbs and went to Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Then I attended Northern Illinois University and ultimately graduated from University of St. Francis.
I spent 18 years as a business and computer education teacher, as well as a department chair, in Thornton Township High School District 205. Then I joined Rich District 227 for four years as its director of teaching and learning before coming to Lake Park in 2004.
As for my family, my husband is a fire chief in Crete Township. And I have two daughters: Marissa, 24, a special-education teacher in an Iowa elementary school; and Kristi, 23, a finance major who now works for McTigue Financial Group in Chicago.
Q. If people saw you outside of school, is there anything quirky they'd be surprised to know about you? A hidden talent?
A. Honestly, I know this is a boring answer, but no. I love my job and my life is Lake Park and my family. Not many people can say they love curriculum and developing it, but I do. I would love to finish my career here.
Q. Even though Lake Park has been through major changes with the Lancer Design for Excellence and the restructured school day that was approved this spring, is there anything else you'd like to see revised?
A. My biggest message to staff this year will be, "Lets see through these initiatives, let's let these things take hold." I don't see any major changes on the horizon. We now need to nurture what we have.