A Pennsylvania educator has been selected as top administrator in Diamond Lake Elementary District 76, the first change in that position in nearly a generation.
Joseph A. Petrella, superintendent of the Gateway School district covering an area about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh, has been selected from more than 40 applicants to lead the Mundelein-based district beginning July 1.
He replaces Roger Prosise, who is retiring after his 15th year as superintendent in the three-school district.
The search for a replacement began last fall and was completed recently with assistance from BWP & Associates Ltd., a Libertyville-based consulting firm that includes former Libertyville Elementary District 70 superintendent Mark Friedman.
Petrella signed the contract, and the staff was apprised of the selection this week. The District 76 school board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a three-year contract.
Petrella's base salary for 2012-13 will be $175,000, with the remaining contract years to be based on an annual evaluation by the board. Prosise makes a base salary of about $212,000.
Petrella, 45, has served as an administrator at Gateway since 2004 and was appointed superintendent in 2010. He previously taught first and third grades, was an elementary school assistant principal and held other administrative positions before joining Gateway.
He said his roots are in elementary education and was interested in Diamond Lake because of its diversity and an opportunity in a district where the role of superintendent is more hands-on. He also has an affinity for the Chicago area.
"The structure of an elementary district, K to 8, was really appealing to me," he said. "I've always had a desire to live in Chicago and work in Chicago, so this is perfect."
As a K-12 district with seven schools and about 3,600 students, Gateway is much larger than Diamond Lake, which has about 1,100 students in one middle and two elementary schools.
Gateway's budget is about $64 million compared to about $13 million in Diamond Lake.
"We were looking for someone who had experience in a district like ours and we were looking for someone who had a passion for education and diversity," said Lisa Yaffe, District 76 board president.
She added that Petrella was selected as someone who can build on inroads made by Prosise, such as improvement in test scores, closing achievement gaps and enhancing bilingual programs, while dealing with pending changes in what students learn and how they are taught. As as a member of a Pennsylvania literacy program, Petrella has worked with many districts on curriculum improvement.
"Everyone is looking forward to different perspectives and ideas," said board member Laura Vogt.
"Roger will be missed, but there is excitement. Education across Illinois is changing."
A community reception for Petrella is tentatively scheduled for April 26.