DANVILLE — Administrators from the Springfield and Danville public school systems have been tapped for two top leadership positions in the local school district.
The Danville school board on Wednesday approved the appointments of Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat as the next associate superintendent and Phil Cox as the next high school principal.
Desmoulin-Kherat, 49, of Peoria, currently serves as the turnaround/transformation officer at the Springfield school district. She will succeed Dianna Kirk, who is retiring on June 30 after 37 years in education including four years as associate superintendent, and earn an annual salary of $130,000 plus benefits.
Cox, 33, who lives outside of Catlin, is currently an assistant high school principal and director of the ACE (Academy of Creative Experiences) House. He will succeed Mark Neil, who also is retiring on June 30 after 37 years in education including five years as high school principal, and earn an annual salary of $95,000 plus benefits.
Desmoulin-Kherat and Cox will begin their new duties on July 1, although Superintendent Mark Denman said both hope to work alongside their predecessors this spring as their schedules allow to ensure a seamless transition.
An educator for 27 years, Desmoulin-Kherat was selected from among five candidates and two "very strong" finalists, Denman said, adding 31 people applied for the job. He said her varied experiences at all levels of education and ability to engage students, collaborate with staff and involve parents and community members made her stand out.
"I think she'll be a very good match for our district," Denman said. She "has the knowledge, interpersonal skills, varied educational experience, commitment, work ethic and vision to lead our district's instructional programming. She brings a collaborative and innovative manner coupled with a student-centered educational philosophy that will serve our district well."
Desmoulin-Kherat earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from Bradley University in 1986 and 1989 respectively and a doctorate in education from Illinois State University in 2006.
An award-winning educator, she has taught and served as Roosevelt Magnet School assistant principal, Whittier Primary School principal and Manual Academy (high school) principal, all in the Peoria school district. She also served as an adjunct instructor at Bradley University and held several positions, including vice president of operations and associate director of education and youth incentives, with the Tri-County Urban League Inc.
In her current position in the Springfield school district, Desmoulin-Kherat coordinates innovative programs, funded with school improvement dollars, aimed at significantly improving low-performing schools in a short amount of time, monitors compliance and provides staff support, among other things. She has been in this job since 2011.
Desmoulin-Kherat said she's honored and excited to join the district and to take on the challenges of her new position and work with Denman and a staff of "lifelong learners ... who are motivated to exploring and doing different things and committed to ongoing professional development." And she's eager to get to know the schools and community.
"I've seen Danville's commitment to education," she said. "This is a wonderful community that's focused on student achievement. And I look forward to talking to as many individuals as it relates to how we move forward."
A native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, Desmoulin-Kherat has been active in her community as a member of the Bradley University Advisory Board, Peoria Children's Home, Tri-County Urban League board, Institute for Gifted and Talented Youth, Peoria Academy and United Way, among other things. Her husband, who works for Caterpillar, and 15-year-old son also live in Peoria.
An 11-year educator, Cox is one of 16 who applied for the principal's job. He was chosen from among seven candidates and three finalists and also got high marks from students who got to meet the candidates.
"I feel he stood out as the best choice," Denman said. "He has a commendable work ethic and a strong grasp of the important challenges facing the American high school. He's very good at relating to the student body and staff and articulating the vision of the school. He's also able to look at a problem, study it from all angles and find solutions to effectively address the problem with integrity and professionalism. He has set high expectations for himself, for the students he's responsible for and the school, and he works hard to support students and meet the goals that have been set."
Cox received a bachelor's degree from Olivet Nazarene College in 2002 and a master's degree from Eastern Illinois University in 2008. He taught social studies and foreign language at Bradley-Bourbonnais High School from 2002 to 2005 and social studies at Catlin High School from 2005 to 2008 before becoming a dean at Danville High School. He did that for a year and has served in his current position since 2009.
Cox said he's honored to accept the position at Danville High, which, he said, has a rich heritage and history of great leaders including Neil, his mentor. "This is a tremendous school with great staff, great parents and most of all great kids. And I have a passion for the work that we're doing here."
When he takes the reins, Cox said his main goal is to focus on learning. "The main questions we're asking are: What do we want our students to learn, and how do we know if they've learned it? Then we have to focus on how do we help the students who didn't learn it ... and create a system of interventions to help all students succeed. The staff is up for it and more than able to accomplish that," he said, adding the school is currently in the process of creating common assessments.
Cox and his wife, Amanda, a teacher at Judith Giacoma Elementary School in Westville, have two children — Landon, 6, and Payton, 4.
Denman said Cox's current position will be posted later this week.