District 204 New Leader

Karen Sullivan has worn a lot of hats during her more than 20-year career.

Starting off as a speech language pathologist, she made the move to education in 1995 as the first principal of Cowlishaw Elementary. A series of administrative positions followed until she left the district in 2011 for Elmhurst.

However, her heart was in 204 and she returned as Superintendent of Human Resources the following year.

Sullivan feels her background in education has given her what it takes to lead 204 into the future.

“There isn’t this year for someone to get to know the district, how Illinois schools are funded, and all of those kinds of things. I’ve got that part down and that’s a positive. The other thing is that I have a really diverse background, which I think is something fairly unusual for superintendents. Having that really gives me the opportunity to look at situations from different perspectives,” said Sullivan.

Her experience and fresh views gave her a leg up on the competition.

After Kathy Birkett announced her retirement, the district hosted a nation-wide search, administrators wanted to be sure to get the best candidate to lead their district.

“We felt like we owed it to our public to do everything right, and do the whole process so we enlisted the help of a search firm to do that and through that process we found that Karen continued to rise to the top and the fact that she was an internal candidate was a bonus,” said President of the School Board for District 204, Lori Price.
Sullivan was named superintendent in February and officially started in July but what she’s most excited about is getting the students back in class and ready for the future.

“What I really hope to do is talk to people about focusing on what matters. Really keying in on what makes the biggest difference for our students in terms of their achievement, what makes the biggest difference in terms of their whole development because we are interested in more than just academic achievement. We are interested in making productive citizens who contribute,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan received her doctorate from Lewis University and earned her bachelors and masters from the University of Illinois.


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