MAHOMET – Keith A. Oates will bring energy, enthusiasm and "amazing potential" to his new job as superintendent of the Mahomet-Seymour schools.
The Mahomet-Seymour school board Monday unanimously approved a three-year contract with Oates, who will begin his new job July 1, replacing retiring superintendent John Alumbaugh.
Oates is superintendent of the Amboy School District in Lee County, near Dixon.
"We're real excited," said Mark Gerst, board president. "He's got what I feel is some amazing potential. We feel that in Mahomet-Seymour we have very, very strong programs academically – and extracurricular, too. And I feel like he can take us even farther. We were looking for someone who would take us to the next level, and we think we got him."
Oates has been superintendent at Amboy since 2002, and before that he was superintendent at Giant City, a K-8 district in southern Illinois. He also has experience as a principal at several school districts.
Oates said from his home late Monday that he's looking forward to getting to Mahomet-Seymour. He and his wife, Sarah, and their three children like the small-town atmosphere of the district and they're looking forward to the move.
"I consider Mahomet-Seymour to be one of the premier school districts in the state of Illinois," Oates said. "We're very excited."
Oates grew up in Raymond, a town of about 900 south of Springfield, and his senior year in high school his family moved to Marion, where his father was superintendent of Marion schools for 17 years.
Oates, who is in his late 30s, did his undergraduate work in elementary education at Eastern Illinois University, earned his master's at Northern Illinois University and received his superintendent's certification through Southern Illinois University. He is working on his doctorate through SIU and expects to finish in 2007.
Board member Andy Busch said he's confident the people in Mahomet-Seymour will like the new leader.
"He's a very personable individual," said Busch, who's served on the board since 1983.
"He certainly has a tremendous amount of enthusiasm," Busch said. " And the places he (served) were very positive about what he'd been able to do for them."
Gerst said he likes Oates' enthusiasm, too.
"He'll bring a lot of energy to the job," Gerst said. "And I feel he's got a real calming ability about him. I feel he's going to be able to really draw the district together. We've been through some real tough times and he'll be a good influence on bringing us together. He's also got a very strong financial background."
Gerst said the experiences Oates had in his two previous superintendencies show that he has the kind of ability the search committee was seeking. The search committee members telephoned not only the provided references, but also people from Amboy and Giant City who worked in the village and local governments, and he said those interviews showed extremely positive support for Oates and his leadership skills.
"I feel it was a very thorough process," Gerst said.
Oates will receive a base salary of $136,000 for the 2006-2007 school year.
The board hired the search firm School Exec Connect of Highland Park to do initial interviewing and background checks. The search closed Oct. 31 with more than 18 candidates.
"We had a good group of candidates to choose from," said Andy Busch. "But I think (Oates) will come in and be a good superintendent. I know the board's going to do everything we can to make the transition smooth, and to help him be very successful. Our purpose certainly is to make the school district be the best that it can be."
Debra Rawlings of the Mahomet Citizen contributed to this report.