Officials of the Naperville Community Unit School District 203 in Illinois have lured Deputy Schools Superintendent Alan Leis away to become their new superintendent.
"We were impressed with his breadth of experience and the various roles he has had with Fairfax County," said Tim Costello, president of District 203 School Board. "He has a good collaborative style. He can maintain the excellence school system we have, but he can also build on it. Ultimately, we reached a pretty quick consensus on Alan Leis."
Leis' last day with Fairfax County Public Schools is April 15 and he reports to his new job, in Naperville about 28 miles west of Chicago, July 1.
"ALAN HAS a wonderful way of connecting with people," said Ellen Schoetzau, the county Cluster II director. "One of his strengths is that he is able to form a liaison with every group — the parents, the teachers, the administrators, the support workers. That is no easy feat. It will be a tough position to fill."
As yet, there has been no word on how the school system will adjust to the loss of Leis. Over the last couple of years, Schools Superintendent Daniel Domenech and the School Board have been restructuring the central-office administration, which has included naming Tom Brady chief operation officer, eliminating an assistant superintendent position, and naming Dean Tistadt assistant superintendent of the Department of Facilities and Transportation Services, which combined two departments. It is widely believed the deputy superintendent position will be filled, however.
"He's a tough act to follow," said Nancy Sprague, assistant superintendent for Instructional Services. "He has a lot of institutional knowledge. We call him Rolodex Alan. He has the history."
Leis began his career with Fairfax County as a teacher at Herndon Elementary more than 30 years ago. Since then he has worked his way through the administrative ranks including holding the positions of executive assistant to the deputy superintendent for school operations, assistant superintendent for Human Resources and finally deputy superintendent since 1996, which has also included serving four months as interim superintendent in 1997. A couple years ago, Leis cut back on his school-system duties in order to teach classes at George Mason University and the University of Virginia.
"I really love teaching, but I finally decided I wasn't really ready to give up on being a superintendent," Leis said. "The more I got into Naperville, the more I knew it was a good match."
Even after his last day with the school system, Leis will finish his teaching commitments with the two universities before completely moving to his new home. He and his wife were planning another visit to Naperville this weekend to go house hunting. Leis' youngest daughter graduates from Oakton High School this spring, which he said sparked the timing.
"I MET HIM briefly, but I was really impressed with the guy," said David Griffith, president of the Naperville Unit Education Association. "He comes with high praise from all groups, has a broad background and his personality is all inclusive. He tries to bring in everybody for the good of the kids."
Naperville began its search for a new superintendent in August, after the District 203 School Board decided not to renew the current superintendent's contract, which expires June 30. A professional search firm presented five candidates to the School Board, which in turn narrowed the field to three. After interviews in Naperville and a site visit to Fairfax County, where three District 203 board members met with central-office staff, teachers, parents and Domenech during the double-digit snowstorm, Leis received the unanimous support of the full board.
"We made a decision in February. Once we decided on Alan, we conducted a site visit," Costello said. "It reaffirmed Alan was the right person for us."
The Naperville Community Unit School District 203, which encompasses much of the City of Naperville, parts of the Village of Lisle and single subdivisions in the communities of Bolingbrook and Woodridge, is the fifth largest in Illinois. It has a student population of 19,238 attending 21 schools. It is described as "high achieving" with a 96.2 percent graduation rate. Leis said, while it is much smaller, the district is similar to Fairfax County, but not quite as diverse.
"It's kind of the perfect school system for him," Sprague said. "I'm so happy for him."
Griffith offered a piece of advice to the new superintendent, "Buy a warm coat. We don't close schools here for snow."