District 214 prepares for first superintendent search in 17 years

Bill Dussling has been on the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 board of education for two dozen years, but he's just now preparing for what will be only his second superintendent search.

Dussling, the board president overseeing what is the state's second-largest high school system, will preside over a meeting Tuesday night that will mark the informal launch of the board's first superintendent search in 17 years.

The kickoff to the search follows the Nov. 17 announcement by David Schuler - named National Superintendent of the Year in 2018 by AASA, the School Superintendents Association - that he is leaving the Arlington Heights-based school district in mid-February to take the helm of that professional organization.

"That's unusual to have a superintendent that long, particularly in this day and age," Dussling said. "You used to be able to get a superintendent or a principal that lasted 10 years or double-digit years, but not so anymore."

While Schuler's longevity is rare, he called the AASA gig his "second dream job" after the District 214 post.

So even though the school board inked a five-year contract extension with Schuler just last year, Dussling said he and board members aren't surprised Schuler accepted the position with the Alexandria, Virginia-based association.

"I knew he could be considered for that position for a little while, but you never know what's going to happen," Dussling said.

In what likely will be the first of several special meetings over the coming months, the board is expected to discuss in closed session Tuesday what the upcoming search process will look like.

Dussling anticipates the board will choose an interim superintendent to get the district through at least the end of the school year, or longer, depending on how long it takes to find a permanent successor.

Board members will decide if they want to retain a national search firm to coordinate the recruitment and hiring process, like they did when they plucked Schuler from a pre-K-12 school district in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, in late 2004.

The panel - which at the time included Dussling and fellow board member Alva Kreutzer - hired Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates to scour the nation for candidates.

The firm supplied five finalists for school board interviews before Schuler was chosen. Dussling and Kreutzer drove up to central Wisconsin to offer the job to the then-34-year-old educator.

Dussling said board members also will have to define what they're looking for in a new superintendent, and what parts of the community should be involved in the search process. They'll also lay out a timeline, though any search big or small is expected to take months.

"It's bittersweet. We're losing a great guy. And now we (have to) move forward," Dussling said.

The special board meeting will begin in open session at 6 p.m. Tuesday for public comment before the elected panel goes into closed session for discussion. The meeting is being held at the district's temporary central office, 2123 S. Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights.

Schuler leaving District 214 to head national superintendents group

The last time Northwest Suburban High School District 214 introduced a new superintendent was in 2005, when David Schuler, middle, took the helm. Now, board President Bill Dussling, left, board member Alva Kreutzer and the rest of the District 214 board will search for Schuler's successor. Daily Herald File Photo
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