District 211's superintendent choice follows history of developing leaders from within

  • Lisa Small

    Lisa Small

  • Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 Associate Superintendent for Instruction Lisa Small, left, and Superintendent Dan Cates, right, were in their usual positions on the dais as board member Steve Rosenblum, center, read a statement on the choice of Small to succeed Cates after a nationwide search. Board members Kim Cavill and Ed Yung also are shown; other board members and officials sit further to the right.

    Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 Associate Superintendent for Instruction Lisa Small, left, and Superintendent Dan Cates, right, were in their usual positions on the dais as board member Steve Rosenblum, center, read a statement on the choice of Small to succeed Cates after a nationwide search. Board members Kim Cavill and Ed Yung also are shown; other board members and officials sit further to the right. Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/25/2019 5:49 PM

Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 board members' nationwide search for their next superintendent led them back to the end of the meeting table where they themselves sit.

But board President Robert LeFevre Jr. said the unanimous appointment of Associate Superintendent for Instruction Lisa Small to succeed retiring Superintendent Dan Cates next summer only affirms the value of the district's practice of developing talent in-house.

 

Such a directive historically has been included in the language of each new superintendent's contract, he said.

"I couldn't be any more proud than to have a person like Dr. Small spend virtually her entire career in District 211," LeFevre said. "She compares favorably to anyone who is available out there."

During the search, it was common to hear candidates from outside the district express their desire to be doing what it's already doing, LeFevre said.

Small, who will be the district's eighth superintendent, brings to six the number who were hired from within. But even those have come from a variety of previous positions and career paths, including Cates, who was associate superintendent for administrative services before his last promotion.

LeFevre said the characteristics the current and previous boards have looked for weren't confined to any specific earlier roles.

"The qualities that great leaders have transcend whatever their developmental processes have been," he said.

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Small said the strongest benefit she sees in her combination of previous positions that include teacher, volleyball coach, director of instructional improvement and Fremd High School principal has been the opportunity to work with large groups of different people.

"One of the most important things a leader can do is understand other people's perspectives," she said.

As Cates' influence on future decisions is now confined to the current school year, one of Small's first tasks will be to address the appointment of a new principal for Schaumburg High School next year and the ripple effect that's likely to cause among the district's staff.

But Small said one of the benefits of her being appointed so early is that there will be no delay in these decisions being made when they normally and ideally would.

One of the tasks of her current position has been to make District 211 a leader in helping students define their career pathways, as well as learning and meeting industries' skill expectations. It's an area in which she intends to see continued improvement, including ensuring that graduates have marketable communication and collaborative skills.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As far as facilities go, the district is due for its next 10-year life-safety survey though its buildings are already maintained very well, Small said.

LeFevre said the district also will be ready to develop a new five-year strategic plan in Small's second year as superintendent. Whether any work toward that would begin during Small's first year in her new role is something that still needs to be discussed, he said.

Small's initial four-year superintendent contract begins with a gross salary of $246,000. Cates is receiving $277,678 for his sixth and final year as superintendent.

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