Karen Vota of Coal City CUSD 1 accepted the Holly Jack Outstanding Service Award during the opening session of the Secretaries’ Program at the 2016 Joint Annual Conference on Nov. 22. Vota serves as both the superintendent’s administrative assistant and board of education secretary for Coal City. She is the eighth recipient of the annual award.
Vota was chosen from among 25 nominees. She has spent nearly 30 years working in public education, beginning as a copy clerk in 1987. In 1991, Vota moved on to the clerk position at the middle school and two years later was working as a secretary in the main district office. In 2000, she was promoted to the head secretary position at the new Coal City middle school. After serving four years in that capacity, Vota was named administrative assistant to the superintendent while also assuming the duties of school board secretary.
“This is such a prestigious award and honor,” Vota said when receiving the award. “Each of this year’s nominees has made incredible contributions to their communities.”
The award was created to honor the memory of Holly Jack, a long-time employee of the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), who served as an IASB field services administrative assistant and was instrumental in creating professional development programs for board and district secretaries. The purpose of the award is to both honor Holly’s contribution and memory and to recognize the extraordinary work and service provided by secretaries who serve and assist their local boards of education.
A selection committee comprised of individuals representing board members, superintendents, school business officials, district administrative assistants, and former IASB administrative assistants reviewed the nominating materials and made the selection. Nominations were made by district superintendents and school board presidents. The judges considered the following criteria: performance, initiative, innovation, staff development, self-improvement, passion for public education, and dedication to the district and community.
In addition to her secretarial duties, Vota has taken on responsibilities that include organizing training opportunities for clerical staff, handling the student registration process, managing the cafeteria program, and streamlining board meetings through the use of technology. She also serves as the district data manager, assists with a number of financial-related reports, and has helped with cost-saving transportation route analysis.
“I was immediately impressed by Karen’s professionalism and work ethic,” said Coal City Superintendent Kent Bugg. “I had never met a secretary who was so productive, yet still managed to find the time to make our faculty, students, and the public her top priority.”
Vota credited Bugg for his constant encouragement to seek new opportunities to learn and improve. “Dr. Bugg has created a culture of excellence. I was always encouraged to broaden my knowledge base,” Vota emphasized. “He consistently expected us to do more for the students and community.”
Shawn Hamilton, board president of CUSD 1, also cited Vota’s work ethic, positive attitude, and continual desire for self-improvement when nominating her for the award. “Karen always brings a passion for the district and community in fulfilling her role as school board secretary,” stressed Hamilton. “She understands that the support she provides the board and superintendent on a day-to-day basis helps us fulfill our [the board’s] key mission of ‘excellence in local school governance.’”
Thomas Lay Burroughs Award
Douglas P. Floski, president of the Byron CUSD 226 Board of Education, was named the winner of the 2016 Thomas Lay Burroughs Award on Nov. 20 at the Third General Session of the IASB/IASA/IASBO Joint Annual Conference.
Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) member Lula Ford presented the award to Floski.
Floski’s accomplishment on behalf of students, taxpayers, and district staff were highly praised by Ford, including: service as board president since 2011; leadership of a board committee structure for quality review, buildings and grounds, and finance and policy that has enhanced achievement of district initiatives; advancement of communications opportunities with members of the district, including presentations to the Rotary Club, the chamber of commerce, financial forums, and strategic planning groups for buildings and grounds and teaching and learning; leadership of a results-oriented model for decision-making, including a five-year financial forecasting model, enrollment-based staffing, and assessment of learning through student achievement information.
He has also been a consistent advocate for a fair assessment of the Byron Nuclear Generating Station and efforts at advancing an equitable salary and benefits schedule for all district employees.
In his work as board president, Floski has led the achievement of the district in a number of ways:
The district recorded its highest ACT scores ever for the graduating classes of 2015 and 2016.
The state’s new PARCC (Partnership for Advancement of Readiness for College and Careers) examinations placed Byron CUSD 226 with the 2nd-highest overall achievement among Illinois Districts for 2015 and 2016.
The 2016 Illinois Report Card placed Byron CUSD 226 with the highest percentage of 8th-grade students who achieved passing scores for Algebra 1, the highest college-readiness score (based on the percent of students who completed the ACT examination with a score of 21 or greater), and the 2nd-lowest percentage of students who enroll in a community college and require the taking of remedial coursework prior to advancing on their courses of study.
Byron received an overall grade of “A,” according to one rating service, ranking the district in the top 7 percent of Illinois school districts overall. Byron was ranked in the top 12 percent for teacher quality, top 9 percent for safety and top 11 percent among schools that are good for athletes. The district received grades of “A-” or better for Academics, Administration, Clubs and Activities, Health and Safety, Resources and Facilities, Sports, and Teachers.
The Byron district is located in the Northwest Division and has a current enrollment of 1,065 students.
“I want to thank all those who serve on school boards, and on our board in particular,” said Floski after accepting the award. “I accept this on behalf of all board presidents, for the role of board president is challenging, as we all know,” he added.
The Burroughs Award, created in 1991, is given annually for extraordinary educational leadership at the local level. Specifically, the award honors the demonstration of extraordinary leadership:
- on behalf of improved student learning and educational excellence;
- in resolving a crisis or major difficulty; and
- on behalf of equal education opportunities.
Named in memory of the late ISBE chairman who served as school board president at Collinsville CUSD 10, the award honors leadership in the context of a seven-member school board that represents the citizens of a community. The award honors group skills, such as consensus building and teamwork, as well as individual traits such as vision, courage, integrity, etc.
Jason Henry named Illinois Superintendent of the Year
Jason Henry, district superintendent at Sesser-Valier CUSD 196, was honored Sunday at the third general session of the IASB/IASA/IASBO Conference as the 2017 Illinois Superintendent of the Year.
Chosen annually by the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the award was presented Nov. 20 in Chicago.
Henry, who has been an educator for 22 years, said: “This award isn’t really about me or my work. It’s about the phenomenal team of people that make up the Sesser-Valier school district and the Egyptian Region of the IASA.”
During his 12 years as a superintendent at Sesser-Valier, he is credited with instituting a co-teaching program the teams a regular education teacher with a special education teacher in classrooms for English, language arts, and math, both at the junior high and high school level.
He also helped to develop a strategic plan for the school district.
Under Henry’s leadership, Sesser-Valier Elementary School recently was designated as a federal Blue Ribbon school.
He has also been very active in his community, serving as a volunteer for the chamber of commerce and the homecoming association. He and his wife also help lead his church’s children’s music and Sunday school ministries.
“Dr. Henry remains highly respected among his peers for his knowledge and expertise,” reads the nominating letter written by Tim O’Leary, superintendent of Pinckneyville District 50. “He is an exemplary school superintendent and most worthy of this nomination.”
Brent Clark, executive director of IASA, said: “I have witnessed Dr. Henry’s servant leadership for his students, his staff, and his community for several years; he is most deserving of this honor.”
Illinois ASBO Lighthouse Awards
The Illinois ASBO Lighthouse Award, which honors those school business officials who shine a light on an area that is unfocused in schools, was presented to John Fuhrer, director of operations, facilities and transportation, North Shore SD 112; and Scott R. Mackall, assistant director of operations and facilities, North Shore SD 112.
The honorees were announced during the second general session of the 84th IASB/IASA/IASBO Joint Annual Conference.
The award, presented by the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (Illinois ASBO), specifically honors outstanding practices and new ideas that result in significant contributions to school entities, the profession of school business management, or Illinois ASBO, and can be replicated by other school business officials. It was originated ten years ago.
Both Mackall and Fuhrer were praised for their diligence, superior performance and service to the public school business world."
"We appreciate getting recognized because it is particularly nice to be recognized by your peers," Mackall said.
The Lighthouse Award can be presented for categories of individual applicant, team applicant, and non-member applicant, with both of this year's winners being chosen in the individual category. Such awards include a cash donation of $1,000 to the employing school district on behalf of the winner, and a plaque. The cash donations are then to be used for student scholarships or given to a charitable organization that provides programs and services for children.