Michael Bregy, superintendent of Community Unit District 300, is leaving the sixth largest school district in the state to head Highland Park-based North Shore School District 112, officials confirmed Tuesday night.
The District 112 board voted unanimously Tuesday to name Bregy its next superintendent. He will replace outgoing superintendent David L. Behlow, who is retiring in June. Bregy said his first day is May 29.
Bregy, 47, has spent 14 years in the Carpentersville-based district and said his formative experiences and collective successes there prepared him for this new chapter in his career.
"I would not be the educational leader that I am today without my experiences in District 300," Bregy said Tuesday. "I was able to break the mold of that traditional superintendent and really do those things that mattered most, and that's being in school working with kids."
Bregy said he was never looking to leave District 300 because he was happy there. He said a recruiter working for District 112 reached out to him, and he eventually agreed to an interview.
"It was a new opportunity, it was a school district that is a little bit smaller, and so my leadership style is all about getting to know as many people as possible before you make decisions," Bregy said, adding that he was also intrigued because it's not that far away from where he grew up in Mount Prospect. "The most important thing is the school district is similar to where I started teaching (in Texas), and that really resonates with me because I loved teaching."
District 300 has hired executive recruiting firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates to find Bregy's replacement and will consider both internal and external candidates, officials said. The district also will seek input from all of its stakeholders.
"I have no doubt that we will select another highly qualified individual to continue our forward progress into the future," board President Anne Miller said in a statement.
Bregy was beginning his third year as superintendent in District 300. He started his career there as assistant principal of Jacobs High School.
Once he became principal of Jacobs, Bregy gave his personal cellular phone number to the school's 2,400 students and told them to text him with any issues. Not only did it allow teenagers to communicate with him in a way that's comfortable for them, but it also helped make the school safer. Some of those initial messages helped Bregy and his team provide aid to a suicidal teen and break up a pair of fights.
Bregy served as principal for six years until then-Superintendent Ken Arndt announced his intention to retire and Bregy was tapped to become Arndt's associate superintendent while he learned the ropes. Bregy became superintendent once Arndt left in 2010.
2011 was a busy year for Bregy.
He was on the receiving end of angry protests by parents and students after the school district announced mass layoffs and ultimately handed out 363 pink slips to teachers in order to overcome a budget deficit. The district eventually negotiated a one-year agreement with the teachers union, which enabled the district to recall the teachers who were laid off.
Bregy later found allies across the community in a fight for a fairer share of revenues from tax breaks afforded to Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings Corp.
Sears was looking to extend the 20-year-old Economic Development Area, or EDA, which allowed a majority of property taxes typically paid to taxing bodies, such as the school district, to return to Sears for development. While District 300 initially opposed extending the EDA, it changed its tune and sought a compromise. Gov. Pat Quinn later signed legislation that extended the tax breaks for 15 years, which meant District 300 would receive about $3 million more in annual property taxes from Sears, about double what it previously got.
"I'm incredibly grateful to have these experiences because there are superintendents that can go their entire career without having these high-profile opportunities," Bregy said.
In late 2012, nearly 1,300 educators held a one-day strike that marked the Carpentersville-based union's first since 1972. A tentative agreement ended the strike before its second day and opened the schools.
"Since the strike, he has helped to try and move things forward," said Mike Williamson, the union's president. "To be honest, I'll be sad to see him go because we've developed a good working relationship."
Also in 2012, District 300 extended Bregy's initial three-year contract to five years, which meant his contract would expire June 30, 2017.
District 300 is made up of 27 schools and nearly 21,000 students. It also falls into several towns including Carpentersville, East Dundee, West Dundee, Algonquin, Gilberts, Sleepy Hollow, Hampshire and Lake in the Hills. Bregy's annual salary was $200,000.
Conversely, District 112 is comprised of 12 schools and about 4,500 students in Highland Park, Highwood and Fort Sheridan. Bregy will be making $240,000 a year there, according to a district spokeswoman.
Bregy, who will be moving to the area, said the Highland Park-based district offers high student achievement and high community involvement. But he will spend plenty of time listening to and learning from its stakeholders before leading the district.
"You can't start making decisions if you don't have all the information," Bregy said.