Dist. 15 dedicates buddy bench in honor of retiring superintendent

  • Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson gets help from Ethan Kain, 10, and Owen Kain, 12, as they dedicate a buddy bench Monday at Gray M. Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine.

      Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson gets help from Ethan Kain, 10, and Owen Kain, 12, as they dedicate a buddy bench Monday at Gray M. Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Retiring Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson looks on Monday as he is honored for his service with the dedication of a new buddy bench at Gray M. Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine.

      Retiring Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson looks on Monday as he is honored for his service with the dedication of a new buddy bench at Gray M. Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson walks among students Monday during a ceremony dedicating a buddy bench in his honor at Gray M. Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine.

      Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson walks among students Monday during a ceremony dedicating a buddy bench in his honor at Gray M. Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/3/2019 4:43 PM

As he heads into retirement later this month, Palatine Township Elementary District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson was honored Monday with a plaque bearing his name installed next to a special playground bench encouraging children to be kind.

Scores of children, teachers and others gathered with Thompson outside Gray M. Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine for the buddy bench dedication. The festivities featured the Sanborn chorus with a crowd-pleasing rendition of "This Is Me" from the film "The Greatest Showman."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Sanborn Principal Erika Johansen said the plaque is a fitting tribute to Thompson's nine years at District 15 and overall career.

"As the superintendent of District 15, Dr. Thompson has been a strong advocate for all kids," Johansen said.

Buddy benches at schools are meant for children who are alone but looking for a fellow student to play or speak with. Other children who see the student at the bench are encouraged to speak with the peer or ask him or her to join them in play.

Thompson, 62, is retiring after eight years as District 15's superintendent.

School board President Lisa Szczupaj cited accomplishments under his leadership, such as a take-home Chromebook laptop computer initiative for students, reducing food insecurity for low-income students and a Spanish dual-language program.

He also encountered some turbulence during his tenure, including criticism in 2016 over an unprecedented 10-year teachers contact and a $130 million borrowing plan for construction projects that voters rejected.

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He said he's most proud of helping create a positive culture at District 15. That's how schools can function at the highest level possible, he added.

"I think one of the things I've been able to do is really allow the teachers and staff members to do their jobs well because they feel supported and have a good culture," said Thompson, whose retirement is official June 30. "I think the overall sense of us being a family has really grown and I think people feel the organization cares about them, supports them and appreciates all the work they do."

Thompson was principal of Twin Groves Middle School in Buffalo Grove before Antioch Elementary District 34 hired him as superintendent in 2005. He departed District 34 in June 2010 and joined District 15 later that year, replacing the ousted Daniel Lukich.

Deputy Superintendent Matthew Barbini, who is leaving for the top job at Libertyville Elementary District 70, said he's grateful for all he's learned from Thompson in his nearly six years at District 15.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think with Scott's leadership, it's been a focus on the students and doing right by students and the adults who serve them," Barbini said.

Thompson said he plans to spend more time with his seven grandchildren and expects to seek a volunteer opportunity with a nonprofit organization. He also said he's happy he declined a proposal to have Lake Louise Elementary School in Palatine renamed for him.

"It was far too pretentious for me," Thompson said of having his name on a school. "Like I said before, I just felt honored leading the district and I didn't think it was really something I wanted or deserved. This (buddy bench) is much more satisfying and gratifying."

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