One-time top state superintendent from Des Plaines plans to retire
Jane Westerhold has spent nearly four decades in education, from when she got her first job as a kindergarten teacher, to becoming a principal at age 26, and finally ascending to the top and being recognized as Illinois superintendent of the year.
The superintendent of Des Plaines Elementary District 62 announced Thursday that she plans to retire at the conclusion of the upcoming school year, after 11 years at the helm.
"I've loved all the positions I've ever been in. I had a great career and I'm very thankful for that," Westerhold said. "But the last 10 years has been by far the most rewarding. We've been able to accomplish so many things."
Westerhold pointed to $109 million worth of facility renovations districtwide, including an early learning center that opened in 2011, implementing technology improvements, and partnering with the Discovery Education professional development program.
On Wednesday, she began a one-year term as president of the Illinois Association of School Administrators -- the organization that named her Superintendent of the Year in 2013. The association, which has more than 1,700 administrators as members, is pushing its Vision 20/20 policy platform, a long-range plan aimed at improving public education statewide.
Westerfield says she's stepping down next year to spend more time with family and experience new personal and professional challenges.
"I'm very interested in doing something that's totally different, but I don't know what that is yet," she said. "I feel there's something else inside of me to experience and fulfill."
Westerfield joined District 62 after serving in administrative roles in Edwardsville, Schaumburg, Wauconda and Romeoville-based Valley View District 65. She began her career as a kindergarten teacher, and later was appointed principal in downstate Worden School District 16. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Southern Illinois University and her doctorate from Loyola University.
She said she always aspired to be a school district superintendent.
Her husband, Kenneth Cull, was superintendent of Itasca Elementary District 10 until 2008, and has served as an interim superintendent for districts in Skokie, Winnetka, Lincolnwood and Lombard since then.
District 62 school board President Stephanie Duckmann called Westerhold's retirement bittersweet.
"Jane has moved the district light years ahead and the board of education expects her successor to continue that trend," Duckmann said in a statement.
Duckmann will lead the effort to find Westerhold's replacement. She said the school board will select a search firm to conduct a comprehensive search, and hopes to announce Westerhold's successor after winter break.