Lake Villa Elementary District 41 Superintendent John Van Pelt said he will end his education career that started more than 30 years ago and half a world away in Australia.
Van Pelt, who will retire as superintendent on June 30, 2014, said the long road from Australia to Lake Villa was definitely challenging but something he was proud to have accomplished.
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"It's been very interesting and rewarding for me," he said. "Without a doubt, dealing with the financial challenges that we have right now has been the toughest of my career. This has been, by far, the biggest challenge."
Van Pelt's education career began while preparing to graduate from the University of Iowa, when school leaders from Australia came knocking on his door looking for teachers.
"I felt it was a great opportunity for me," he said. "So, I did it. It was a wonderful experience."
Following his stint in Australia, Van Pelt returned to the United States and worked as a teacher and principal in schools in Iowa, before he was hired as superintendent of Morrison Unit District 6 in downstate Illinois.
He was later lured back to Iowa to serve as associate superintendent of a large, urban school district, before settling in at Lake Villa in 2005.
"I was in Iowa serving as associate superintendent for educational services, but I just really missed being a superintendent," he said. "So, when the position opened in Lake Villa, I applied and got the job."
Van Pelt said he will miss being a superintendent when he retires next summer, but added that consulting work will keep him busy through retirement.
The District 41 school board is hiring a search firm to find his replacement.
Van Pelt said the search should be narrowed down in July.
He said the new superintendent will face the challenge of shifting students around following the closure of Pleviak Elementary School next summer. The new superintendent will also have to handle a fiscal deficit that stands at $1.8 million, shrinking enrollment, and shaky state finances.
"(The closing of Pleviak) affects peoples lives and their livelihood," Van Pelt said. "It's difficult for everyone; the staff, students and community. These are changes that have to occur, but are very hard on people."