Five former Champaign administrators help out between superintendents

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign's school district is seeking a new superintendent, but while the search continues, five familiar faces are back in the central office filling in.

Five retired Champaign administrators are back at the Mellon Administrative Building, sharing two positions.

Mary Muller, Carol Stack and Pat Lewis are sharing the position of interim executive director of curriculum design, education services and equity. Margie Jobe and Arlene Blank are sharing the title of interim executive director of human resources.

They say they're still passionate about the district, and they want the transition between former Superintendent Arthur Culver and the next leader to be smooth.

"I'm vested in this district and I'm vested in this community," Lewis said.

Stack said it feels natural to be back.

"Walking down the corridor, it just seems like you pick up where you left off," she said.

Jobe said her commute the first day didn't seem any different than her pre-retirement days.

"My car just zoomed right here," she said.

But Blank, who's been retired since 2002 and has served as a school board member, said while the five administrators are comfortable in their roles, they're working to move the district forward.

"We're not here to bring back the late '80s or early '90s," she said.

Stack emphasized that every superintendent and other administrator who's worked for the district has added something of value to the district.

"We keep adding, every administrator keeps adding," she said. "We don't discard the things working well."

The administrators have worked together before and have specialties in different areas. Lewis has a background of working with elementary students, as a former principal at Kenwood Elementary School. Stack worked as principal at Jefferson Middle School and served as interim superintendent before former Culver began his tenure in the district. Muller worked as director of elementary curriculum and assessment.

Jobe was the district's director of special education, and Blank was assistant superintendent of support services.

Muller said the five work together well. They bounce ideas off each other, and are able to cover for each other while some take previously scheduled vacations or need other time off.

"It's ideal," she said. "We all knew the district well. ... I think we have a lot of respect for each other."

During retirement, all have worked in professional capacities elsewhere: They've consulted for assessment companies, worked as adjunct professors and with student teachers at the University of Illinois and Illinois State University. They've worked with principals, teachers, the Regional Office of Education and other professional organizations.

"I am learning so much, being retired," Jobe said, and she enjoys the excitement and energy of the teachers she trains.

Stack said the retired administrators and the district as a whole have the goals of the now-resolved consent decree in mind, including sensitivity to students.

"We lived it," she said.

Muller agreed.

"I've always believed that all students should have equity and excellent access to a gifted program, to a selection of (Advanced Placement) courses," Muller said. "You want your curriculum to be rigorous."

The point, she said, is preparing students to meet their potential.

The administrators also are dedicated to the teachers and principals.

"The bread and butter still is to find ways to better support teachers" and their students, Stack said.

Muller said interim Superintendent Robert Malito's calling the retired administrators a "dream team" sets a high standard.

"I want to live up to that," she said.

This story appeared in print Dec. 4.

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