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New D-45 superintendent Palmisano inspired by teacher

Erica Benson -
Anthony Palmisano, the new Superintendent of School District 45, sits in a classroom Aug. 20 at Jefferson Junior High in Villa Park.
Erica Benson - Anthony Palmisano, the new Superintendent of School District 45, sits in a classroom Aug. 20 at Jefferson Junior High in Villa Park.

VILLA PARK – There’s a teacher named Martin Sirvatka who works at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, and Anthony Palmisano, the new superintendent of School District 45, said it’s because of Sirvatka that he’s here today.

When Palmisano, now 43, was a student at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park, it was Sirvatka who reached out to him, who built a relationship with him and pushed him to attend college. Years later, Palmisano said he still considers Sirvatka one of his closest friends.

“He inspired me and built a relationship with me,” Palmisano said. “I always wanted to pay it forward, to make a difference. I really owe it to him the fact that I’m sitting here right now. I owe that to a teacher.”

On July 1, Palmisano, a 20-year veteran of District 45, began his new role as superintendent of the district, which serves schools in Lombard and Villa Park. So far, he’s spent his tenure with the district at Jackson Middle School, first as a teacher, then assistant principal and most recently as principal. He held that position for 12 years.

As a teacher, and later as an administrator, he said he tried to model Sirvatka’s teaching method by building strong relationships with students and learning about them as individuals. In his classroom, Palmisano said he tried to apply what students were learning to real-world problems, making the lessons applicable outside the classroom.

“I so loved being a language arts teacher,” he said. “I wanted to make reading and language arts come alive, and when we started writing, the kids got their voices. That’s when I really got to know them.”

It’s this philosophy that Palmisano said he wants to cultivate districtwide as superintendent.

He’s developed a superintendent’s entry plan for himself, which outlines the things he wants to accomplish within his first 100 days or so in the position. Essentially, it’s a three-step plan, he said, to listen and learn, build relationships and build a district focus.

“Get to know the parents, teachers and students from across the district,” he said, “zero in on priorities and build a platform.”

He decided to step into a leadership role, first at Jackson and later as superintendent because he wanted to support other teachers, listen to their education plans and find a way to help them.

District 45 has eight schools and during the upcoming months, Palmisano said he wants to build one, cohesive network where teachers from different schools share ideas, strategies and experiences with each other.

“We all matter and together we matter more and students will achieve more when we’re working together,” he said. “The final result will be student achievement.”

As he prepares for his first school year as superintendent, Palmisano said he’s faced with the challenge of learning more about the district schools, understanding their unique cultures and responding to their needs.

Monday marks the first day of school for District 45 students, and Palmisano said he plans to spend the first few days traveling to all of the schools and greeting students.

“The excitement of school, and watching them get off the bus on that first day, there’s nothing like it,” he said.