Warren Dist. 121 hires new superintendent

  • John Ahlgrim is the new Warren Township High School District 121 superintendent.

    John Ahlgrim is the new Warren Township High School District 121 superintendent.

Updated 3/18/2015 5:45 AM

Warren Township High School District 121 in Gurnee turned to northern Lake County to find a replacement for retiring Superintendent Mary Perry Bates.

District 121 board members Tuesday night hired John Ahlgrim as the next superintendent.


Ahlgrim is coming to Warren in July for the 2015-16 academic season from Zion Elementary District 6. He had been Mundelein High School District 120's principal and deputy superintendent until he left for Zion in 2008.

He said he looks forward to working with Bates on his transition to the District 121 superintendent seat.

"It's such a great opportunity to join the leadership team at District 121," Ahlgrim said.

Ahlgrim joined Mundelein High in 1994 as a math teacher and varsity football coach. His Mundelein High career also included working as a dean and an assistant principal.

Before coming to Mundelein, he worked at Libertyville High School, at a dropout prevention program in Chicago and at now-closed Holy Cross High School in West suburban River Grove.

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At District 121, controversy related to the superintendent search erupted at a school board meeting last Dec. 2. As elected officials listed criteria for the next school chief for consultants at the meeting, board member Liz Biondi said she would be concerned about hiring a gay superintendent.

Biondi, who later apologized for her comments, said a gay superintendent could wind up fighting "more personal fires than superintendent fires." Two weeks after the remarks, roughly 400 people filled Warren's Almond Road junior-senior campus cafeteria for a meeting, with a dozen or so of them criticizing Biondi and demanding her resignation.

Warren' board members censured Biondi at the Dec. 16 meeting that she didn't attend and dropped her from the superintendent search committee.

It'll be Bates' second attempt to retire. She had been assistant superintendent and was supposed to retire in June 2013, but that changed when she took over when Jeff Brierton resigned before he ever started as superintendent in July 2012.

Brierton, former principal of Warren's O'Plaine Road freshmen-sophomore campus in Gurnee, received a severance package of about $250,000 when he quit before he was supposed to become superintendent in 2012-13. He was named District 121's new boss in December 2010 to succeed Phil Sobocinski.

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