How new District 15 superintendent is approaching the job
Palatine Township Elementary School District 15's new superintendent is brimming with ideas as the 2019-20 academic year begins Wednesday.
Laurie Heinz received a four-year contract and a starting annual salary of $272,000 to replace the retiring Scott Thompson as the district's top administrator. She officially began July 1.
Heinz's move to District 15 came after five years as superintendent of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64. Under her watch, District 64's Washington Elementary School in Park Ridge was named a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
She began her administrative career as an assistant principal at District 15's Winston Campus in Palatine, where she served from 1998 to 2002. Her resume also includes serving as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in Skokie School District 68 and principal in Northbrook School District 27.
Heinz was interviewed recently at Plum Grove Junior High School in Rolling Meadows; her answers were edited for length and clarity.
Q. What's been keeping you busy since you officially started July 1?
A. I've spent a lot of time with my leadership team and we are mapping out our areas of focus for the year. We're onboarding new administrators, as well as around 60 new teachers. We've had a very active week of teacher orientation. We are getting a lot of our curricular initiatives ready to launch.
Q. How did you prepare for taking over?
A. Once I was board-approved back in the winter, I really began mapping out my transition plan, which largely included spending time in the buildings, meeting with different individuals in different departments. So I started right over winter break when my old district was closed and Palatine was open. I just started interviewing people to get to know them and the departments, kind of some of their initiatives and challenges. … I went to board meetings, night events, just really starting to get to know what was working and where we had opportunities to improve within the district.
Q. Do you have any thoughts on the issue of reconfiguring boundaries?
A. What I like the most about the work of the Boundaries Task Force is how they figured out to kind of clean up the way our kids matriculate through elementary, junior and into the high schools. The pattern right now has kids kind of crisscrossing the district, and there's no common way in which they move, where kids in neighborhoods can stick together.
Several of the potential concepts that the Boundaries Task Force presented to the board in June addressed that issue and that is something I think is going to be a big topic of conversation.
Q. What about the idea of all-day kindergarten?
A. I think especially in a community like Palatine that has a lot of students coming to us lacking readiness for kindergarten, a full-day program would be very beneficial for our at-risk learners. But it's really beneficial, too, for our average learners and even our advanced learners, because you have time to go more deeply into different concepts, to have a play-based component, time for social, emotional learning.
We have to talk about can we afford it, how are we going to afford it, because you're really doubling your (kindergarten) workforce and in some cases you may need to add space to a building.
Q. Anything you want to tell the community about yourself?
A. I have a lot of energy and I'm passionate about my work, so I will be out in the community, not only at school events, but looking for ways to get involved within the municipalities in which we serve students.
On a personal note, I'm a local girl, so I understand this area. And I have interests like everybody else outside of work. I enjoy concerts, time with family, I'm a die-hard Cubs fan. Just a true Chicagoan who's very happy to be working very near where she grew up and started her administrative career.