The 2013 – 2014 school year will be the final year for Superintendent Kathy Birkett.
During her 35-year tenure in Indian Prairie School District, she’s seen multiple schools open their doors as Naperville and surrounding communities continue to grow.
She began her final year on the job greeting students as they journeyed through the halls to find their very first class of the Academic year at Waubonsie Valley High School.
“I asked to come here because this is where I started. It’s exciting. The first day of school is always exciting,” said Birkett. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time you’re through it or the 35th time. “It’s always exciting so it feels good. There’s always an energy when the kids come.”
Dr. Birkett kicked off her career in 1979 as Waubonsie’s physical education teacher.
Over the years, she went on to become the principal at several schools, including the first at Steck Elementary School and at Neuqua Valley High School.
“In particular opening the two buildings, Steck and then Neuqua Valley High School, spent a lot of time thinking about climate, about personality of the building and developing what she wanted it to be and then developing a staff to create that,” said Howie Crouse, a former superintendent who worked with Dr. Birkett.
Dr. Birkett’s career culminated with her position as superintendent. Under her leadership, District 204 open its third high school, Metea Valley, weathered financial hardships due to cuts in state funding, and attained record achievement scores. The newly-released composite ACT score for the 2013 class was 24.1, exceeding the national average of 20.9.
Curt Bradshaw, now on the Illinois State Board of Educaton, was part of the District 204 school board that hired Birkett as superintendent in 2009.
“We knew Kathy to be a visionary and gifted communicator and she has a special knack for being able to bring together the best people to tackle the most difficult challenges,” said Bradshaw. “It certainly didn’t hurt that she had a wealth of experience within the district and knew it better than anyone else.”
“For her to move into that leadership role and to perform so well under such trying times, is really a testament to everything that she is and she leaves the district in a much better place than she came in as superintendent and that’s the best any of us could hope to be able to say,” said Crouse.
Dr. Birkett announced in July that she would retire after what will be her 35th year in the district, a decision that wasn’t easy to make as she loved connecting with staff and students.
“I owe so much to Indian Prairie School District 204. They’ve just become family to me, there are great teachers, great administrators, great parent support and just phenomenal kids so those are the reasons you wrestle with it,” said Birkett. “But I also know that those things will still be in place long after Kathy Birkett’s gone and I know it’ll remain to me the magical place that it’s always been.”
While she isn’t sure when her last day will actually be, Dr. Birkett’s contract officially ends on June 30th.
After she retires, Dr. Birkett plans to do some traveling and volunteer work to give back to her community.
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