Indian Prairie Unit District 204 has chosen an educator with integrity and a passion for helping improve student achievement as its next superintendent, school board President Lori Price said Monday.
Karen Sullivan, who has served as assistant superintendent of human resources since 2011, is set to step into the district's top post July 1 after Superintendent Kathy Birkett retires. The board on Monday night approved a three-year contract with Sullivan that gives the 33-year educator a base salary of $238,000.
"I love this district; I'm very committed to this district," said Sullivan, 55, of Hinsdale. "There's always been a culture here where all the decisions are about students first, which is what I think education should be all about."
Sullivan was chosen after a national search began in September when the district hired Iowa-based search firm Ray and Associates Inc. Roughly 60 people applied for the job and the firm brought forward about a dozen for further consideration.
The board interviewed six candidates in person, then narrowed the field to two before picking Sullivan, Price said.
"We knew we would have an internal candidate, but we also wanted to put her up against some of the top-notch leaders in the nation," Price said. "So we opted for a search firm, and they did a national search."
Aside from Sullivan's integrity and passion, Price said she stood out as the right person for the job because of her wide-ranging qualifications in education and her knowledge of District 204.
"We want someone who's familiar with our district, who's familiar with the work that we've had to take on and also someone who's familiar with the financial challenges that Illinois has," Price said.
Sullivan has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Illinois in speech and hearing science and speech/language pathology as well as a doctoral degree from Lewis University in educational leadership.
Price said Sullivan also has expertise in some of the curriculum changes the district is undergoing with the switch to the Common Core state assessments and a new student assessment called the PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. In between her first 14 years in special education and school leadership in District 204 and her most recent three years in human resources, Sullivan spent three years as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Elmhurst Unit District 205.
Sullivan said the first time she worked with young children while studying speech and hearing science motivated her to go into education instead of a hospital setting, and her career has been all about kids ever since.
"You could just feel her passion for the district," Price said. "The focus was always on students no matter what her role was."
District 204 community members are invited to meet Sullivan during a reception from 5 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at Crouse Education Center, 780 Shoreline Drive, Aurora.