HINSDALE – Don White has been all smiles since taking over as superintendent of District 181, fulfilling a professional goal that has been 27 years in the making.
"I have always aspired to be in a high achieving school district where there is a genuine interest from the parents and everyone in the community to make this the best district we can for the students," White said.
The Board of Education unanimously named White superintendent May 2, and he officially assumed duties May 27. He comes to District 181 after serving as the superintendent of Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C.
White graduating from college, White landed a managerial position at Walgreens, but soon had a change of heart and transitioned to education.
"I actually started out of college with Walgreens and was an assistant manager for a few years," he said. "I decided retail wasn't for me and then went into the classroom as a fourth grade teacher."
He has since worked for 27 years in various classrooms and school districts before accepting to District 181 superintendent position.
So far, White said he's been "pretty busy," but in a "fun way."
He has acclimated to the district by visiting all the buildings, including the much maligned Hinsdale Middle School, which will soon begin a $350,000 roof repair. Going forward, a main priority will be to gather community input and determine the fate of the building, according to White.
In addition, the new district leader will assess the current Learning for All Plan, a policy that gradually raises the academic rigor for all district students, but has been a source of criticism from several parents.
"I'm trying to figure what has gone well, because there's been a lot of pieces that have gone really well with this," he said. "There are people that are not proponents of it, and that's OK; but that doesn't mean that you automatically shift because you have some people that don't agree with it."
While he intends to stay the course with the Learning for All Plan, White said there are areas that could be tweaked and addressed based on feedback from students, teachers and the community.
"If it's not working, let's not make on the fly decisions, let's use data to drive our decisions, but let's not make sweeping changes based on one data point," he said.
One of White's areas of expertise is technology, as he has previously led sessions and written articles on the topic.
He believes that although technology can promote classroom instruction, it should not hinder traditional learning, specifically student-teacher interaction.
"We need to remind these students that you can't stare at a cellphone and engage in a human way," he said. "But how can you use that cellphone in a productive societal way?"
In February, former district superintendent Renee Schuster announced she would be stepping down to be closer to her family. Of the 43 candidate applications then received, the search was narrowed down to six semi-finalists, then three final candidates before White was selected.
At her final meeting May 27, Schuster thanked the community, the board and had nothing but praise for White.
"You are joining an amazing district," she said to him. "The students here are so well behaved and respectful, which is just a mirror of their parents and the community."
About Don White:
Family: Wife, Lori; children, Traci and Bryant.
Education: Doctorate from Illinois State University with a superintendent’s endorsement, a master of education degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a bachelor of science in education degree from Western Illinois University.
Hobbies: Technology, physical fitness, reading and photography.