CHAMPAIGN — Champaign schools' chief operating officer, Gene Logas, died Tuesday morning of an apparent heart attack.
Mr. Logas, who was 56, had worked at the school district since 2005 and is credited with helping put the school district on solid financial footing, Superintendent Judy Wiegand said at a news conference Tuesday morning at the district's Family Information Center.
"Words can't really express our shock and grief at this time," Wiegand said.
School board President Sue Grey also spoke at the news conference, along with school board Vice President Stig Lanesskog and board member Jamar Brown.
They spoke of Mr. Logas' careful work with school district finances and his patience in explaining how they worked.
"It's a great loss to the community," Grey said, adding that Mr. Logas would sit with board members for hours to explain things. "I will miss that comfort I felt in Gene and the trust I had in Gene."
Because Mr. Logas' death was so sudden, the school district does not yet have a plan for how Logas' duties will be handled.
However, that plan will be developed later this week and in weeks to come, Wiegand said.
She said Mr. Logas hired and trained competent employees in his department, and Lanesskog said Mr. Logas laid out structures and frameworks for the school district's finances, calling them "one of the comforting legacies he'll provide to the district."
Lanesskog also spoke of Mr. Logas' ability to simplify complicated matters and communicate well so the school board could make "fact-based decisions."
Wiegand also spoke of his compassion for others, his sense of humor and his love of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Grey spoke of his desire to be 100 percent accurate in his work.
"It's going to be tough without Gene and we'll miss him very much," Grey said.
Mr. Logas' is the second sudden death the Champaign school district has dealt with this year. School board member and former employee Greg Novak died suddenly in March.
Mr. Logas was hired in May 2005, when Arthur Culver was superintendent.
Before that, he'd been working at a school district in Colorado and had experience with school districts and cities. He grew up in Granite City, The News-Gazette reported at that time, and was looking forward to moving to his home state to deal with Champaign's financial challenges.
The Champaign school board had just gone through $2 million in budget cuts, as a previous district accountant had discovered a $5 million deficit the previous summer.
The Champaign school district had been through five financial managers from November 2000 until Mr. Logas was hired in 2005.