Des Plaines elementary school principal named top in state
The principal of Brentwood Elementary School in Des Plaines was named 2019 Illinois Elementary Principal of the Year Friday by the Illinois Principals Association.
Mike Merritt is in his fifth year as principal at the K-5 school, which is a part of Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59. He was surprised with the announcement Friday morning by students, district administrators and representatives of the association and Horace Mann Educators Corp., an insurance firm that sponsors the award.
"Think about the number of principals in the state," Merritt said in a district news release. "To know that your peers think highly enough of you to select you for this honor and people at the state level respect you, it's very humbling."
Merritt was nominated for the award by Elk Grove High School Principal Paul Kelly, who was named 2018 Illinois High School Principal of the Year by the state principals group.
Criteria for the elementary school principal award includes demonstrating a positive impact on education and advocacy for children, ensuring the school climate is positive and reflects high staff and student morale, and showing creativity and imagination in bringing about positive change, among other things, according to the Illinois Principals Association.
"We're looking for that principal that knows kids, instruction, data and how to improve schools and keep things moving forward," said Kim Zinman, a field service specialist for the association. "We want principals that pay attention to the whole community."
District 59 Superintendent Art Fessler said Merritt brings "a positive attitude and outstanding work ethic to the job" and is passionate about serving the school community.
Before coming to Brentwood, Merritt spent two years as principal of L.J. Stevens Intermediate School in Wilmington and six years as an administrator at Aux Sable Middle School in Plainfield. He began his career in 2001 as a physical education and health teacher at Martinez Middle School in Romeoville.
Merritt, of Joliet, received his doctorate in education from the University of St. Francis in 2015, a master's degree from Concordia University in 2006 and a bachelor's degree from Illinois State University in 2001.