Daniel Cates says after spending his entire career working in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, he's elated to be its next leader.
"I am extremely excited about the opportunity to lead us into the future years," he said Friday. "The district enjoys a long-standing reputation of deep care and excellence for our students and families. I certainly want to sustain that and build upon that."
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The board of education chose Cates, 48, as the district's next superintendent Thursday night. On July 1, 2014, he will replace Nancy Robb, who is retiring after 34 years in the district.
Robb said Friday she felt the board of education made an excellent decision.
"What I find most impressive about Dan is his ability to motivate and inspire others to work collaboratively to develop programs to serve all students," she said, adding he is a proven leader. "I know I speak for many staff members that today we are very happy for Dan and District 211. He'll do a wonderful job."
Cates said he is looking forward to the new closeness he'll have with the principals and programming that takes place in District 211.
He said his current position as associate superintendent for administrative services, which he has held for five years, has been an excellent training ground. Working closely with Robb over the past few years, he said, has given him a firsthand look at many of the challenges any superintendent faces.
"Dr. Robb has been a stellar leader," Cates said, adding that she has also been a mentor to him. "The district has done extremely well under her leadership."
While he plans to continue leading the district in a direction that will "create futures and change the lives of young people," Cates acknowledged there will be need for change as new technology emerges and continues to be introduced in the classroom.
Still, he said, the instructional focus will remain on "developing and deepening the levels of thinking and creative problem-solving" among students.
"We really want to focus on every student having some kind of pathway to college or a career. That is the fundamental driving goal for all that we do," he said.
Cates started his District 211 career in 1992 as a school psychologist. He became assistant to the director of special education in 1998 and was director of special education from 2001 to 2008. He played a key leadership role in founding the district's second alternative school and has helped expand special services available to students, according to the district.
Board President Bill Robertson said besides his previous positions, Cates was a strong candidate because of his involvement in the community, his ability to relate to all different types of people and his understanding of the district's finances, among other traits.
"He's very well-rounded and has a strong background in a variety of areas that's really going to facilitate a strong leader," he said.
Robertson added that he is confident Cates will be able to fulfill some common expectations that residents asked for in a survey: a presence in the district's buildings, good accessibility to the community and extensive knowledge of the curriculum.
The district used the firm School Exec Connect to conduct the search for the next superintendent. Robertson said the firm interviewed 17 of the 35 people who applied for the position. The board of education had two open meetings and six closed meetings regarding the search and personally interviewed four candidates.
In June, the board agreed to open the search to external candidates. While the final vote to offer Cates the job was unanimous, Robertson said he was still pleased the position was open to people outside the district because it allowed the board to make some comparisons.
"It's even more evident how valuable he is to the district," Robertson said.
District 211 is offering Cates a four-year contract with a base annual salary of $215,000. He will be the seventh superintendent in the history of the state's largest high school district, which serves 12,500 students.