Departing Dist. 13 head credits community for school success
After nine years in different administrative roles in St. Charles Unit District 303, Kim Perkins knew he was ready to lead a school system as a superintendent.
And as Perkins searched throughout the suburbs for such a post in 2003, colleagues kept pointing him toward Bloomingdale.
"I had several friends advise me it was a great school district because they have a great deal of community pride, as well as a staff that was known for being very dedicated and hardworking," Perkins said.
That year he was hired to lead Bloomingdale Elementary District 13, which serves about 1,225 students at DuJardin Elementary, Erickson Elementary and Westfield Middle schools. Previously, he served from 1999 to 2003 as District 303's assistant superintendent for human resources and as principal of Haines Middle School for five years before that.
This month, Perkins will retire after another nine years in District 13. And during his time there, Perkins said he learned all his friends told him about the district is true.
"We've got good kids, good staff and good community," Perkins said. "Reflecting on all the places I've worked, there is just a deep sense of community pride. It's easy to keep the ball rolling when everyone is involved in keeping good things going."
Perkins arrived just as the No Child Left Behind mandate was going into effect, changing how stringently schools across the country are judged and evaluated. Perkins said that required a renewed focus on how District 13 students were achieving and how to document it.
"Schools had never really had that degree of accountability and being under the microscope," he said.
During his tenure, standardized test scores rose from roughly 78 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards in math and reading, to roughly 94 percent in both subjects by 2011. Perkins said it was the third-highest change among 42 school districts in the county over nine years.
He is quick to credit the teaching staff and administrators, especially teachers who are sticklers about continuing their own education and leading by example for their students.
"You can't succeed at a school district if your staff members are not learners, and our staff members are lifelong learners." Perkins said. "They set a good example for students by learning new things all the time, and I think that pays off with student achievement."
Perkins said he is also proud that everyone in District 13, including the school board and maintenance staff, works to make the district valuable to taxpayers -- even the 78 percent who don't have children in elementary school.
"The community should be proud of how well we have managed the resources of the district," he said. "The buildings are well cared for by maintenance staff so they last a long time. We try to show very directly to our community that we guard our resources wisely and we don't have a lot of debt for the community to take."
After his June retirement, Perkins plans to do some consulting work, focus on his golf game, and travel with his wife. "Mrs. Perkins will go crazy if I stay around the house," he said.
New Superintendent John Bartelt will step in this month after more than seven years at River Grove Elementary District 85.5. He was chosen from a field of about 50 internal and external candidates. A search firm helped with initial vetting, and District 13 parents, staff and community members provided input throughout the search.