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Whitnall focuses on two superintendent candidates

District residents get first look at finalists

Jan. 26, 2010

Hales Corners — The search for a Whitnall school superintendent is down to two.

The finalists - Lowell Holtz, former Beloit School District superintendent, and Ken McCormick, Grafton High School principal - both took part in a community forum Tuesday, less than a week after the school district publicly revealed their names.

The School Board hopes to select one of the finalists by early February, months ahead of Superintendent Karen Petric's retirement at the end of June, board President Bill Osterndorf said.

Their profiles

Holtz was a candidate in the 2009 election for state superintendent of public instruction, losing in the primary to eventual winner Tony Evers.

He has also served as superintendent in the Palmyra-Eagle School District and is currently employed as an administrator at Career Education Associates of North Central Illinois.

McCormick has been at Grafton since 2004. Before that, he served as assistant principal at Waukesha South High School and dean of students at Badger High School in Lake Geneva. He earned his superintendent's license from Cardinal Stritch University two years ago.

At this week's forum, McCormick and Holtz made separate 10- to 15-minute presentations and took questions from a mix of about 45 community members, school faculty and others in the high school auditorium.

Representing who they are

McCormick's presentation centered on building relationships within the community, good communication and his "smile and learn" philosophy - a suggestion that students should enjoy their time in school while getting properly educated.

He didn't think his lack of experience as a superintendent would impede his ability to lead the district, but he acknowledged there would be a learning curve, especially in the first year.

"What I would have to do is work harder," McCormick said, "and spend more time not only learning the people, but learning the job."

Holtz touted his three years as head of the Beloit School District. He noted the increases in the number of students taking the ACT exam, as well as the rise in graduation rates and a reduction in achievement gaps between white and minority students there.

Like McCormick, he also stressed communication, among staff members and also between the school district and the community. He said he's anxious to get back into the ranks of superintendent.

"My goal in life has always been to be superintendent and hands-on with the kids, with the teachers, with the parents," he said, "and working to provide the best education possible for kids."

Holtz and McCormick both said salary increases for teachers and administrators should reflect the economic times in the community. Both also said they would be willing to cut administrators if faced with that dilemma.

They differed on whether Whitnall should reconfigure its elementary school structure. School officials have discussed a scenario in which one elementary school would serve children in 4-year-old kindergarten through second grade, and the other would serve third- through fifth-graders.

McCormick said he would make such a change only out of "economic necessity."

Holtz said he would need to meet with the people who have studied the issue and community members before making a decision.

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