Palatine Township District 15's next superintendent: Park Ridge-Niles' Laurie Heinz

Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board members Wednesday night hired a new superintendent to replace Scott Thompson, who's retiring after the 2018-19 academic year.

Laurie Heinz, superintendent of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, received a four-year contract to take over for Thompson on July 1. Her first-year salary will be $272,000.

"After spending five years as a superintendent in a mid-sized district, I'm looking for a bigger challenge," said Heinz, 50. "And certainly a school system as large as District 15 will be challenging just based on its size, its staff. Twenty schools, 12,000 students, 2,000 employees. That's a big system to move."

It'll be a homecoming for Heinz, who began her administrative career as an assistant principal at Winston Campus in Palatine from 1998 to 2002. Heinz will be the first woman to serve as District 15's superintendent in its 72-year history.

District 15 board President Lisa Szczupaj said she looks forward to having Heinz back in the fold.

"You know that movie line, 'You had me at hello,'" Szczupaj said before Heinz's hiring was made official Wednesday night. "The board's choice for our new superintendent had me when this phrase came across the table during the first interview: 'One of my strengths is continuous improvement. Good to great and great to excellent.' That phrase really stuck with me through that interview, and I would anticipate it stuck with many of the other board members."

Among Heinz's accomplishments since becoming superintendent in 2014 at the roughly 4,700-student District 64 is implementing a five-year strategic plan, making safety improvements at schools, creating flexible learning spaces and negotiating three employee contracts.

In 2015, Thompson announced he intended to retire after completing a four-year contract. He was hired as District 15's interim superintendent in 2010 after Daniel Lukich was ousted and given a $185,000 severance deal. Later Thompson got the job on a permanent basis.

Libertyville-based BWP and Associates was hired in the summer to lead a national search for the new District 15 boss, for $16,900 plus associated expenses.

"We have been very fortunate to have Dr. Thompson working in the district for the last nine years," Szczupaj said, "and we wanted to ensure that we hired someone that would continue his legacy and be able to continue the work that he has begun, as well as leading District 15 into the future."

Thompson said he's "thrilled" that Heinz will succeed him as superintendent. Heinz said she plans to work with Thompson and others in transitioning to District 15 as she finishes 2018-19 as boss of the Park Ridge-Niles elementary system.

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