John Benedetti will retire as Grant High School District 124 superintendent after 18 years, though his announcement of his plans this past week wasn't so direct.
Instead, Benedetti simply said Assistant Superintendent Christi Sefcik will take the helm of the Fox Lake-area school beginning in 2012.
"Christie will be an excellent superintendent," he said when asked about his retirement. "We have worked well together for 15 years and she is well prepared to take Grant High School into the future."
That's in keeping with Benedetti's style to credit the teachers, school board, students and community -- nearly everyone but himself -- for Grant's successes.
Benedetti has been at the helm as Grant's enrollment grew from 800 students to 1,850 students in just 15 years. And, he was instrumental in the passage of three construction and/or education-related referendums during that time.
He also oversaw three large construction projects -- including a new field house and two classrooms -- that modernized 85 percent of the campus.
"If some people say I have been successful, it's because I've surrounded myself with quality individuals, outstanding educators, and excellent people," he said. "But, that's a trademark of Grant High School, from the board of education, to the administrators, to the teachers, the students on down."
While Benedetti is reluctant to pat himself on the back, others who have worked closely with him aren't afraid to do so.
They say he's been a driving force behind all of District 124's success.
"From the very beginning, it was obvious to me that John always had a vision for GCHS," said Kim Schnoor, who was part of the school board that hired Benedetti, and then worked closely with him while serving eight years as board president.
"His consistency is one of the hallmarks of his administration. The contributions he made to GCHS at a critical time of growth will serve District 124 for many, many years to come," she said.
Sefcik said the district is well prepared financially and in its facilities because of the job Benedetti did planning for the future.
"Because of his leadership and the support he has from the community, we have grown from 800 students to 1,800-plus students with very little difficulty," she said. "John and I invested much time and energy into long-range planning, which allowed us to be ahead of the enrollment curve with classroom additions, additions of faculty and staff and have initiatives in place to address the instructional needs of a changing student population."
The 59-year-old Benedetti says he is keenly aware of what he's helped do at Grant. It culminates a 34-year education career, including 27 years as an administrator at Lake Zurich Unit District 95 and Grant.
"I am absolutely proud of the work I helped accomplish here," he said. "I was part of the process that saw the district grow as fast as it did, I saw the budget increase from $5 million a year to $40 million, and we had three referendums pass with zero losses."
While Benedetti has a reputation for being all-business, he said he truly cares about the teachers and students.
"I always had the utmost respect for everyone in this building and I care for everyone who has worked here," Benedetti said. "I always felt that, whatever position I was hiring for, that was the most important position in the building at that particular time."
Will he miss Grant when he walks out the door June 30, 2012? You bet.
"It'll be 18 years here when I retire and, I have to say, I truly enjoy coming to work every day," Benedetti said. "Grant High School is a wonderful place to be. It's a very supportive environment, an environment in which students enjoy coming here and staff members enjoy teaching on a daily basis. We have really carved out our own little niche in western Lake County."