For first time in 23 years, Rosemont's lone school will have a new superintendent

Rosemont Elementary District 78 - the single-school district teaching 215 students from preschool through eighth grade in the village's gated community - will get its first new superintendent in 23 years this summer.

John Jonak is the school board's choice to replace Superintendent Kevin Anderson, who is retiring in October after 33 years in education. He'll overlap for a transition period with Jonak, who comes on board in July.

The board this week approved a three-year employment contract with Jonak that will pay him an annual base salary of $160,000.

"For us, we haven't done this in so long, we just wanted to make sure we had someone who was the right fit for our district," said board President Christopher Stephens, who is executive director of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

Jonak, the interim director of student services at Westmont-based Community Unit School District 201, has spent 23 years as an educator, including the last 16 in administration. The latter included roles as principal of Westmont Junior High School and assistant principal at Mannheim Middle School in Melrose Park.

He also spent 20 years in the Army and Illinois National Guard, retiring as a platoon sergeant, according to his LinkedIn profile.

"The good thing about this for us is he kind of has experience all over the place of what we need," Stephens said.

The board formally started its search last November when it retained the Illinois Association of School Boards executive searches staff for $6,400 to recruit candidates, collect resumes and present the board with about a dozen options for closed-door interviews.

Stephens said the board winnowed down the list of candidates and brought back Jonak for three interviews, which included Principal Laurie Kovalcik and teachers.

At one time, Kovalcik was thought to be the top candidate to succeed Anderson as superintendent, and Anderson agreed to delay his retirement while Kovalcik earned her administrator credentials. But then the pandemic happened, throwing the succession plan into jeopardy.

District 78 - atypical in that it's a one-school district - has sometimes had the superintendent serve a dual role as principal. Stephens said the arrangement could change again in the future. But he said he's pleased there were two administrators leading the school through the pandemic, during which classes went remote only for a brief time.

Jonak's contract calls for an annual evaluation of his performance goals and indicators tied to student performance, curriculum and instruction, and his visibility in the community. There's no residency requirement - common in many superintendent contracts, let alone in Rosemont, which has had a long-standing residency rule for village employees.

"Some superintendents unfortunately feel they're just the overseer of the school district and the business side, and we want someone that's out there, that's a part of the community in and around the school. And that's one of the things (Jonak) said," Stephens said.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.