Neighbors in the News: District U-46 names its new superintendent

• Streamwood resident Suzanne Johnson was named superintendent of School District U-46, the state's second-largest school district.

Johnson began her career in education in U-46 nearly 26 years ago, and since February she's served as the district's interim superintendent. She will officially assume the role July 1.

"The board is delighted to welcome Dr. Johnson as our new superintendent. We look forward to working with her and are excited about the future of U-46," said board President Susan Kerr.

Johnson had served for five years as U-46's deputy superintendent of instruction when the board appointed her as interim superintendent on Feb. 23, after the district's previous leader, Tony Sanders, was named state superintendent for Illinois.

A graduate of Elgin High School, Johnson, returned to her U-46 roots to teach language arts at Canton Middle School in Streamwood. Johnson's first administrative role was at Bartlett High School. She quickly advanced into the role of associate principal and then principal prior to moving into a role in central administration in 2013, first as an assistant superintendent of Teaching and Learning before being promoted to the deputy superintendent position.

Within U-46, Johnson is known for her deep understanding of instructional practices and a commitment to fostering academic excellence.

Johnson holds her undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa, her master's degree in curriculum and instruction from DePaul University, and her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Emily Loerakker, principal of Fremont Middle School. Courtesy of District 79

Freemont School District 79 has named Emily Loerakker as principal of Fremont Middle School, replacing Krista Winkelman, who recently accepted the district-level position of executive director of Student Services.

Loerakker demonstrates strong instructional leadership with institutional knowledge of Fremont, having served as a math, science and social studies teacher at Fremont Middle School from 2005 until her appointment as the school's assistant principal four years ago.

Prior to her time at Fremont, she was a biology teacher at Richfield High School, Richfield, Minnesota.

Additionally, Fremont School District 79 appointed Tegan Dittmer as assistant director of Student Services.

Dittmer joins Fremont after having served as the principal at Fairhaven School in Mundelein since 2020.

She began her professional career as a special-education teacher at Algonquin Lakes Elementary School, prior to working as an assistant principal and then interim principal at Laremont School, as well as a supervisor for the Special Education District of Lake County.

"We are thrilled to welcome both Emily and Tegan into these new roles at Fremont School District 79," said Trisha Kocanda, superintendent of schools.

"They both are highly-skilled, student-centered leaders committed to providing an exceptional academic and social-emotional experience for all learners."

Vivica Lewandowski, Miss Illinois Teen USA 2023. Courtesy of Mandy Lewandowski

On Sunday, May 28, Vivica Lewandowski, 18, was crowned Miss Illinois Teen USA 2023.

A 2023 graduate of Barrington High School, Vivica won two out of the three scored categories in the competition - an interview which consists of a panel of five judges and the fitness portion.

She was also selected by the other contestants as Miss Congeniality.

This is the first time a teen from Barrington has won Miss Illinois Teen. It is also the first time that a mother and daughter have both won the state titles in Illinois. Vivica's mom, Mandy Lane Lewandowski, was Miss Illinois USA 1998 and competed for Miss USA.

Vivica and her family are the founders of Chicago Charity Clays, an all-volunteer charity that raises funds for the military to help provide medical, financial and other support to Special Operations Fund members and their families.

She also works as a full-time runway model for ZZAZZ Productions, a fashion runway production company in Chicago.

• Rajkumari Chhatwani, vice president, and Linda Dressler, assistant secretary, of the Hoffman Estates Park District recently attended the Illinois Association of Park Districts' 2023 Boot Camp.

IAPD offers the educational course to elected officials and professionals at Illinois park districts, forest preserves, conservation, recreation and special recreation agencies.

Attendees receive targeted, in-depth training on an array of topics, including understanding the Open Meetings Act; making a difference through legislative advocacy; breaking down the fundamentals and best practices of park district finances; implementing DEI strategies; promoting effective relationships among the board, executive director, and staff; and adhering to ethical requirements.

Chhatwani was elected to the Hoffman Estates Park District in 2019, and Dressler was elected in 2021.

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