New D135 Super Likely Coming from Outside District
Interim superintendent Dennis Soustek hopes school board, teachers and residents to “come together” after recent controversies.
Dennis Soustek is no stranger to turmoil within Orland School District 135.
The interim superintendent, who will serve 100 days through the rest of the current school year, first took the lead position with District 135 in 2006. At that time, he said similar conflicts had risen.
“It’s a little like déjà vu,” Soustek said, at the Jan. 9 meeting where he was officially made superintendent again. “I would hope that the board can come together and the community comes together behind the children. A lot of people are tugging at the rope in different directions. We need to be all going in the same direction.”
Soustek will be overseeing the district while three administrative positions need filling. At the end of the school year, Assistant Director of Special Education Patti Murtagh will retire, as will Prairie School Principal Debra Ciaccio.
Then there’s a permanent superintendent to find as well.
“My feeling is maybe (the school board will) be looking for someone with experience as a superintendent from somewhere else. Not necessarily someone from internally coming up.” Soustek said. “I’m a big believer in going outside. I came in as principal of Jerling Junior High from outside.”
As for other specific skills or background the ideal superintendent candidate will have, Soustek said that will depend on more input from the board and staff while the search gets underway.
When asked about claims of inconsistent hiring practices for the new student services secretary, Soustek said he isn’t aware of the details.
“A lot of that was in closed sessions,” he said. “That’s something I will look into and get a sense from the board about that. I need to look at the processes because we have positions to hire and I’ll definitely be involved in that.”
Even in coming back to the district at a time of unrest, Soustek said he is optimistic about moving forward.
“I think overall there’s a lot of support for good quality education in this district,” he said. “The staff is wonderful. They do so much. I’ll be relying on the building principals and administrative staff to get this all done. I think we’ll all come together.”
This isn’t the first time since he retired that Soustek was called by D135 to fill in. In October 2010, he came back as a principal when one broke her leg.
“They asked me to come back for a short time,” he said. “It turned into 80 days.”
Former superintendent Paul Howell described his time in the position as “awesome,” after Monday’s meeting, his last in the role.
“It was a rare opportunity,” Howell said. “It’s like being a parent. You find that the responsibility is even larger than you expected, but you welcome it.”