WHEATON – After a summer of searching, Community Unit School District 200 has a new superintendent.
In a special meeting Wednesday night, the Board of Education unanimously voted to install Jeffrey Schuler to the position after former superintendent Brian Harris left the district in May for Barrington Community Unit School District 220.
Schuler, a 42-year-old Plainfield resident, is superintendent of Kaneland Community Unit School District 302. He emerged as the best candidate of the more than a dozen interviewed by the board, said Board President Barbara Intihar.
"We're just thrilled," she said. "We all made a pact at the beginning: the board said that if we don't find the right person, we'll find an interim and start the process next year."
Once the board narrowed down its list for interviews with district educators and community members, the choice was clear, Intihar said.
The decision preceded the board-imposed deadline of Aug. 13. Intihar said that, while staff are prepared to start the school year, having a formal leader installed takes away a lot of uncertainty.
Board member Rosemary Swanson said the entire board agreed on Schuler's selection – though member Jim Gambaiani was absent for the formal vote due to a family commitment – and it was not a marriage of convenience and expediency.
She complimented Schuler's focus on working with advisory groups, keeping the district at the forefront of education, and his emphasis on catering to each child – a major request during the district's Engage 200 community outreach program.
"You clearly have your compass pointed in the right direction," she said. "I'm looking forward to seeing where you take us."
Board Vice President Jim Vroman said during the interviews Schuler integrated many points of Engage 200 into his presentation, something that meant a lot because the process "was so meaningful for all of us."
Schuler has been superintendent of the 4,800-student district since 2010 and will begin his four-year contract Sept. 2. Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Faith Dahlquist will remain as the interim until then, according to a district news release.
His base salary is $225,000, and he will receive a pay raise each year based on the Consumer Price Index, with a 5 percent cap, according to Schuler's contract. He can also earn an additional amount based on his annual performance evaluation rating, potentially bumping the increase up as much as another 2 percent annually.
The contract includes 23 days paid vacation and the ability to receive compensation for a maximum of five unused vacation days.
Intihar said the board decided to keep the agreement with Schuler a year shorter than Harris's, so it didn't end on an election year. Trying to negotiate a new contract when members have only been on the board a few weeks is unfair to everyone involved, she said.
Intihar confirmed Schuler was one of the candidates Harris suggested during his exit process.
"I think he's going to take our district to new levels and build upon the good foundation that he finds here and carry us forward," she said. "He's not a person who will be complacent, and we certainly can't be."
Schuler said pride in quality education was the driving factor in his choice to switch districts. He said it was "humbling" to hear the board's comments, but added it is important to remember it takes a team to lead a district.
"To think about the opportunity to be a part of the team and try to continue to keep raising it to another level ... candidly, Sept. 2 isn't going to come quick enough," he said. "I promise you as a board and leadership team, you're not going to be disappointed. I'm going to make you proud and do what we said we could do."