Looking Forward To Retirement
Having spent the last six years as the district’s leader, Sullivan says she’s ready to sleep in a little bit more and take some time to smell the flowers.
“I need to slow down for a little bit. I think that would be good for me,” said Sullivan. “Health-wise, and otherwise it’s good for everybody. But, I’ll find some things to do. I will not down to zero for too long I don’t think.”
Sullivan has been in District 204 for 23 years. Back then, Waubonsie was the only high school in the district. In her time 204 has nearly tripled in size and Sullivan has been there nearly every step of the way
“One of the reasons why I know so many people in the district is the fact that I’ve been here [for a while], but I also been a part of a lot of the hiring at that time,” said Sullivan. “I’ve been seeing over the past few years people retiring like me were people that I’ve hired all those years ago.”
Throughout her educational career Sullivan has served the district as a teacher, principal, and of course as superintendent. One of the things she is most proud of is her part in helping open a school in the district.
“Proposing an inclusive early childhood center, which the district didn’t have before, was pretty innovative in the state, and even nationally at that time,” said Sullivan. “So one of my most proud moments is opening Prairie Children Preschool.”
To add to her list of accomplishments, Sullivan has successfully navigated the district through a state budget crisis. Schools and teachers have been recognized nationally, and Sullivan was recognized as one of the best superintendents in the state.
“There’s tough decisions to make when you’re in charge from anywhere to 26,000 to 29,000 students and their families,” said District 204 Board President Michael Raczak. “And she [ Karen Sullivan ] has done that with style and grace.”
More recently, Sullivan and the district have had to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. But she says the district successfully passed through uncharted territory because they had the infrastructure to deal with it.
“We were probably better prepared than many, probably 99%, of the school districts in the state [to deal with the pandemic],” said Sullivan. “We had an e-learning plan in place, most of our students, second grade on up, had devices, we were able to help many of our K-1 and preschool students as well. But we were ready for snow days, not over eight weeks of remote learning.”
Sullivan says District 204 is waiting on guidance from health and state departments on how to reopen schools in the fall.
She will hand off the baton on July 1 to Dr. Adrian Talley, who will become the district’s first black superintendent.
How Sullivan Will Be Remembered
A leader, role model, and someone who valued student success above all, that’s what others will remember most about Karen Sullivan.
“When you go to a profession and you do it with your heart there’s not enough thank you,” said Raczak. “But we do thank her and wish her the best in retirement.”
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.
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