Willard principal resigns to work closer to his home

? Parents, teachers offer appreciation to John Swanson as school board begins interviews for his successor.

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by Bob Skolnik

After nine years watching over River Forest school families, Principal John Swanson has resigned so he can work closer to his own family.

Swanson, whose resignation as Willard School principal was announced at the last meeting of the River Forest public school board, will wrap up the current school year at Willard. Marlene Kamm, school superintendent, praised Swanson and said his next job is likely to be at the middle school level where he began his career. "He's going back to middle school, where he started and he should be excited."

Kamm said the process of seeking Swanson's replacement is underway and that Willard parents and teachers would be invited to meet finalists for the post later this month.

Parents and teachers lauded Swanson for his service as Willard principal over the past four-plus years. Earlier he has served as assistant principal at Roosevelt Middle School.

"We certainly appreciate his nine years of service and dedication ? I only wish him the best at his new pursuit at the secondary level." said Kamm.

Swanson is leaving Willard to take a position at a school closer to his Lincolnwood home.

"My decision to leave Willard is prompted by my desire to have more access to my family ... with my son beginning high school and my daughter starting middle school in the fall, I want to be closer to home in order to more fully participate in their lives," he wrote in a letter addressed to the parents of Willard School.

JuliAnn Geldner, president of Willard PTO, said she will remember Swanson's accomplishments and dedication to Willard School. "He did many great things for the kids," she said.  "Most recently, he came up with a lovely idea to reward students for doing good things ... there's a notebook in the office and students can write down when other students do good things and there's a weekly prize."

"We will miss the way he greets every child he can in the morning. And he does know them all by name," said Judy Shelstad, a parent and former PTO treasurer at Willard.  She has worked with Swanson for the past three years.

Tim Strains, a fourth grader teacher at Willard, said he is confident that Swanson's exceptional leadership and instructional skills will serve him well whichever school he goes to next.

"I wish him?#34;all?#34;the luck in the world," he said.  "I know he's going to be absolutely fantastic wherever he goes."

With Swanson's resignation, Kamm has already commenced a search for his successor.

"We have more than 100 applications, even from out of the state," she said.  "We advertised nationally and we hope to be done" this month, she said.

She will be seeking a representative group of Willard parents and teachers to meet with finalists in the month of May.

"We look for principals that will be able to carry on the excellence of the building and be involved with the staff, children and the community," she said.

Swanson expressed his thanks to Willard community.

"I would like to thank all the members of the Willard community who have supported me?#34;and more importantly, supported our students?#34;during my tenure as a principal," he wrote in the letter announcing his resignation.  "Your contributions to our wonderful school cannot be overstated; please know that I will treasure my experiences at Willard forever."

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