LEMONT – Though she lives in Frankfort, new Lemont School District 113A superintendent Courtney Orzel said she and her family will be ever present in the Lemont community.
Orzel, who started in her new position at the beginning of July, is putting an emphasis on communication and openness, which includes being visible outside of the school.
Orzel took time for a one-on-one interview with the Lemont Suburban Life on Wednesday morning.
Farnham: What have you learned about the district and Lemont in your time on the job?
Orzel: There's great people here. It's a great community … I think that there's an active, caring community here … I think another thing is that people are excited for new leadership. I think they're excited for stability within the district.
Farnham: What do you think a superintendent's role is?
Orzel: Superintendents should be visible at community events, where parents are, where our kids are, athletic events … I also think a superintendent has to be approachable and needs to be in the schools. It's very difficult to make decisions about schools if you're not there and seeing the work that's happening in our classrooms … The other piece of approachability is communication. That's one of our goals, the board and I moving forward – that we have open, honest, transparent communication.
Farnham: What do you feel like the superintendent's relationship with the board of education should be?
Orzel: For me, I believe it's a partnership. It's my job to keep them informed. It's my job to answer their questions. I'm their employee, and I feel a great responsibility to the board.
Farnham: The last superintendent left after a little more than a year on the job and the one before amid controversy. Do you feel like you need to restore that sense of trust with the community and the district, and, if so, how do you do that?
Orzel: Well certainly, I know the history of the district. But, I feel like this is an opportunity for me and for the board to work together to provide stability for our community … I want the staff to have that confidence. I want the community to have that confidence … I think that longevity is an important thing, and stability is, too.
Farnham: As you evaluate the district, are there areas you feel you could have an immediate impact on?
Orzel: I think that there needs to be a personal touch to what we do in our schools … We have an automated phone system here. One of the things that I'd like to do is that you call into that one line, but then, once you hit where you'd like to go, that someone answers during school hours … I think two of our schools have Facebook pages. I'd like to see a district page that we're putting out information about things that are happening. There's incredible things happening with our schools, and we want to be able to highlight that.
Farnham: What do you look forward to doing on that first day of school?
Orzel: On the first day, you'll see me at each of the buildings, especially when kids are arriving. I'll be outside, waving to parents, talking to kids, seeing our staff. There's nothing better than the first day of school. It's a fresh start, a new start every single year. … I'm excited about that. It can't get here soon enough.
Farnham: Will you find ways to be out in the community here?
Orzel: You'll find that you'll see my husband, my children and I at most, if not all, of the community events in Lemont. I think that I spend a large majority of my time here, so I want my kids and my family to be a part of this family. And I view a school district as a family. So, it's important to me that my family is infused into that. Even though we don't necessarily reside in Lemont, we'll feel like we live here, too.
More about Orzel
Courtney Orzel has worked 15 years in education, becoming the superintendent of Forest Ridge School District 142 last July after serving as a principal in the district at Jack Hille Middle School for seven years.
She has also served as an assistant principal at Gower Middle School in Burr Ridge and worked as an English teacher at York High School in Elmhurst and Hauser Junior High School in Riverside.
Orzel lives in Frankfort with her husband, Jeff, and her two children, Nolan, 5, and Elle, 5 months.