The director of curriculum in Fenton High School District 100 has been named superintendent of Keeneyville Elementary District 20.
Michael Connolly, 35, was appointed Thursday night to replace Superintendent Carol Auer, who will retire at the end of June.
Connolly will be paid $150,000 in the first year of his three-year contract with the district that includes two elementary schools and a middle school serving 1,650 students in Keeneyville, Roselle, Bloomingdale and Hanover Park.
"I am very, very excited, it's a fantastic challenge," the Streamwood resident said Friday. "I'm humbled by the opportunity the board has given me."
In his post at Fenton, Connolly played a key role in moving the District 100 curriculum to align with the nationally developed Common Core Standards, Keeneyville officials said.
In a written statement, school board President Timothy McHugh said the board was impressed by Connolly's expertise in curriculum and instruction as well as his enthusiasm.
With an eye toward saving money, district officials said they conducted their own search, with the help of former Superintendent Bill Schewe. They said 43 people applied for the post.
Auer, who has served the district as superintendent since 2003, was part of the search team. She said she was impressed not only with Connolly's educational background -- since 1999 he has taught social studies, served as a middle school principal and assistant principal, worked in the Lake County Regional School Superintendent's office and spent three years at Fenton -- but also with his people skills.
She said she hopes he will bring energy and stamina to his new position, be politically active in support of education issues and remember "student achievement is first and foremost."
"It's not about power or a paycheck," she said, "it's about what's right for the kids."
She'll get no argument from Connolly.
He said he's impressed by the district's balanced budget and sound financial footing during difficult economic times, but even happier about its "kids first" philosophy and the support it seems to have at all levels, from parents to the school board.
"I need to go in my first year and really learn deeply about the district," he said. "I need to understand the challenges and what the parents, staff and students need."
Connolly says his varied educational background should give him the perspective to address those issues.
"Education is the key to ensuring our country and democracy advances," he said. "It's important to have high expectations for all students and to then work collaboratively to support those students."
As Connolly makes plans to move into the district, Auer, 61, says she's ready to spend more time with her three granddaughters.
She came to Keeneyville as superintendent in 2003 after serving as curriculum chief in West Chicago Elementary District 33.
In her eight years, she said, the Keeneyville district has made continual progress in improving its test scores and in closing the learning gap between minority and white students. She said the district also has made important strides in standard-based instruction and in becoming more green -- including joining a consortium to get power from wind turbines.
Above all that, she said, she's enjoyed "working with the kids and doing things we know help kids."
"What we do changes the future," she said, "and it may sound corny, but we really can change the world."