The Plainfield School District 202 school board on Thursday announced it has selected former Plainfield High School - Central Campus principal Lane Abrell to succeed Superintendent John Harper.
Abrell will begin serving as an associate superintendent for a year-long transition period from July 1, 2013 until Harper’s retirement in July 2014.
An Oswego resident, Abrell will make a base salary of $168,000 in 2013-14 during the transition period. The district will cover his salary, in part, through about $158,000 in savings this year by hiring newer staff members at a lower salary to replace newly retired administrators, district officials said.
According to District 202 documents, Harper's base salary for the 2011-12 school year was $270,446, plus an additional $49,007 in benefits.
After he becomes superintendent, Abrell's base salary will jump to $205,000 in 2014. He will then receive 1 percent raises for the next two years, earning $207,050 in 2015-16, and $209,120 in 2016-17, according to the district.
Currently, Abrell serves as superintendent of Leland Community Unit School District 1 in LaSalle County.
Because District 202 operates 30 schools with about 29,000 students, the school board felt that the transition period was necessary, officials said. District 202 is the fourth largest public school district in Illinois.
“With the potential changes in Illinois legislation that we can’t predict, unprecedented challenges to members of the educational community, and the tremendous range of financial challenges we face, it all makes sense for us to have a year of overlap with Dr. Harper and Dr. Abrell working together,” board president Roger Bonuchi said in a statement.
Abrell was named the new superintendent during a special board meeting Thursday after a months-long search that focused on candidates that were familiar with Illinois education policies and the state’s financial struggles, Bonuchi said.
At a reception following the appointment, Bonuchi said Abrell's knowledge of the district, along with his understanding of the various administration jobs and his reputation as a strong relationship builder will make Abrell a good leader for the district. He added Abrell was named Principal of the Year in 2005.
Bonuchi said he feels confident the school board made the right choice in Abrell.
As for Abrell, he said he is “extremely humbled” by the appointment and looks forward to working for the district.
Abrell started his education career in 1986 as a health, physical education and driver's education teacher and boys basketball coach at Lincoln-Way High School. He has also served as a dean of students at Lockport High School and an assistant principal at Minooka High School and at Munster High School in Munster, Ind.
He worked for two years as an assistant principal for Plainfield High School starting in 1997 before being promoted to principal in 1999, serving in that role during the height of the district's growth until 2006.
“It was a wonderful, exciting nine years,” Abrell said of his time at Plainfield High School. “Challenging, but exciting. I never had a day when I didn’t want to come to work. It was because of the people in the district, the parents and the students.”
“It’s such a wonderful opportunity,” Abrell said of his appointment. “There’s going to be challenges, but a huge factor in my decision to accept the position was my time in Plainfield and the people that I knew.”
He said he recognizes that all districts across the state face the same challenges. Budgetary pressures and economic challenges combined with newer accountability standards for teachers and administrators and the implementation of the Common Core educational standards are among the difficulties that school districts must deal with, he said.
Abrell said he appreciates the confidence the board of education has shown in him and is ready to lead the district and prove he is up to the task.
In his opening remarks Thursday, Bonuchi praised Harper, saying that his leadership helped manage the district’s unprecedented growth. Since Harper became superintendent in 2002, the district grew by nearly 16,000 students, 15 new schools were built and academic achievement has continued to increase, Bonuchi said.
According to the district, Abrell with work with Harper and the board to create a plan for a smooth transition.
“Dr. Harper is still the superintendent and I want to help him in whatever way he needs, and in a way that I can begin working for the Board in a way that’s best for the district,” he said.
“Plainfield is a special place,” Abrell added.
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