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Retiring superintendent confident D-45 is in good hands

Superintendent of School District 45, Janice Rosales helps students in Diane Lowe's special education class at Jefferson Middle School in Villa Park on May 31.
Superintendent of School District 45, Janice Rosales helps students in Diane Lowe's special education class at Jefferson Middle School in Villa Park on May 31.

It was in her first job that Janice Rosales knew she wanted to go into education.

As a lifeguard teaching young children to swim, she realized she wanted to spend her career in the classroom.

Now, at the end of her lengthy career in public education, Rosales says she will miss the children most of all when she retires as superintendent of Villa Park-Lombard Elementary School District 45.

“I’m looking forward to retirement, but I’m awful sad,” Rosales said. “I’ll miss the students and the teachers. I’ll miss hearing the students tell me about their work and their progress.”

At the end of this month, Rosales will step down as superintendent after a five-year stint. Her replacement, Jackson Middle School Principal Tony Palmisano, has been spending most of this year preparing for the job.

“He has been shadowing me pretty much the whole year,” Rosales said. “He’s coming in for cabinet meetings and board meetings. As we get closer to July, we’ll be looking at every phase of the operation.”

Rosales said she is confident she is leaving the district in strong shape, but she acknowledges challenges in the coming years.

Through the recession, District 45 was forced to take on budget cuts to cope with declining revenues. Since then, the district has restored some of the positions and programs, but fiscal problems loom.

School districts were bracing for a $400 million cut to the 2014 statewide education budget before the Illinois General Assembly restored the funding in late May – on the last day of the legislative session.

“Staying in touch with what’s happening in Springfield is important,” Rosales said. “We know that there will be some fewer funds available in the future, but we try to stay cognizant of that so we don’t over-budget, and we stay realistic in our approach.”

On another front, the district is gearing up for broad changes in statewide testing. The decadeold No Child Left Behind benchmarks are being phased out in favor of the new Common Core standards. Still, the district will have to focus on reading scores, which in recent years have lagged behind math scores on statewide tests.

“I would certainly look at bringing the reading achievement of a lot of our students up, especially our subgroups,” she said.

Before she became District 45 superintendent in 2008, Rosales worked as an area instructional officer in Chicago – a sort of sub-superintendent position that oversees a few dozen Chicago Public Schools. Many of those schools comprised dual-language students, which fell in line with her degree in
Spanish and education as well as her time as a teacher.

That experience proved useful in District 45, which likewise features a large Spanish-speaking population. In the last five years, the district has introduced reading specialists in every school.

“The district has come a long way in the last five years, and provides a very rigorous program for students,” Rosales said. “Our writing program is improving.”

In her time as superintendent, Rosales said, a consistent personal benchmark was whether she would want her grandchildren to attend a District 45 school.

As she departs, “certainly, I would want them to attend this district,” she said.

Now, with retirement, she will have a chance to spend more time with her two granddaughters, ages 2 and 4. With the demands of the job, she has not been able to see them as much as she’s wanted.

“I’m very excited about spending time with them,” she said.

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