Des Plaines Elementary District 62 Superintendent Jane Westerhold has been named the 2013 Illinois Superintendent of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Administrators.
The award is being presented Sunday, Nov. 18, during the Joint Annual Conference in Chicago co-sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Association of School Business Officials and IASA. There are more than 800 superintendents statewide, though it is unclear how many were nominated for the award.
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The District 62 Board of Education also earned the governance recognition award for its leadership, and architect Wight & Co. won two awards for renovations at two District 62 elementary schools, Orchard Place and South.
"It's a big weekend for Des Plaines," Westerhold said. "I am extremely honored and humbled to be recognized by my peers, and although I am extremely proud of District 62's accomplishments over the past eight years, I certainly cannot take the credit in isolation. We have had an outstanding board of education that has demonstrated great, consistent leadership. We have also had great consistency in our administrators."
Westerhold now is in the running for the American Association of School Administrators National Superintendent of the Year award to be announced at the national conference in Los Angeles in February.
Westerhold said she is proud to represent Illinois superintendents, many of whom deserve the award for their dedication and hard work.
"I really accept this award for the district, as well as all the superintendents out there," she said.
Westerhold said she will continue helping mentor and coach other superintendents through the Illinois School of Advanced Leadership. "I'm certified as a leadership coach through IASA," she said.
Westerhold was nominated by District 62 school board President Brenda Murphy. The nominating application detailed some of Westerhold's major accomplishments in the district since taking the helm in 2005, including overseeing the completion of a "Master Plan" involving a $109 million in school facilities upgrades and the opening last year of a new Early Learning Center.
Among the accomplishments that set Westerhold apart was the district's reduction -- by half -- of the achievement gap between low income and non-low income students, which went down from 28 percent to 14 percent during the eight years she has served as superintendent. Meanwhile, low-income students increased to 45 percent of the student body from 28 percent.
District 62 includes nearly 5,000 prekindergarten through eighth-grade students housed in eight elementary schools, two middle schools and one year-round school of choice for kindergarten through eighth grade. The student population is diverse, with 61 different languages being spoken and a third of the students being defined as Limited English Proficient -- more than four times the state average.
"While District 62 is not unique in our demographic trends, Dr. Westerhold is unique in her response," Murphy said in a news release. "She celebrates diversity as an asset, knowing that it allows our students to experience and prepare for the real world every single day in school. Dr. Westerhold embraces the challenge to make an important impact on all our students, our future leaders, and the future of our community."
Under Westerhold's leadership, the district implemented a new teacher evaluation program ahead of the education reform package that became law in Illinois a year ago. The district also has maintained its Financial Recognition rating -- the Illinois State Board of Education's highest category-- each of the past eight years and achieved a AA+ bond rating in 2009 and again in 2011.
Westerhold has been an educator for more than 35 years, serving as a principal, director of curriculum and instruction and assistant superintendent in various Illinois school districts. She previously served as assistant superintendent of Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 for nine years.
Westerhold has been involved in IASA leadership roles, including representing the Cook North Region on the board of directors the past four years and serving as treasurer of the statewide association, which represents more than 1,100 school administrators.
"Dr. Westerhold is an educator who has dedicated her professional career to the vision of the IASA, which is 'Maximum Educational Success for All Students,'" said IASA Executive Director Dr. Brent Clark in a news release. "Her work in the Des Plaines district is a testament to that and she is most deserving of this honor."
District 62 will host a community reception to honor Westerhold from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at the Early Learning Center Multi-Purpose and Community Rooms at Forest Elementary School, 1375 S. 5th Ave. For more information, call (847) 824-8070.