Duane Meighan, District 97’s new curriculum coordinator, had been watching, and admiring, the Oak Park elementary school district from afar.
Among the new administrators at Dist. 97 this school year, Meighan applied for the curriculum position, which was left vacant after some central office reshuffling and retirements. Hired from a school district in Elgin, the former Hillcrest Elementary School principal has long been impressed with Oak Park.
“This is a great school district that places a premium on high academic achievement and I was truly convinced that this is where I wanted to be,” Meighan said.
He spent his entire 13-year professional career in the Elgin K through 12 district before coming to Oak Park. As curriculum coordinator, he’ll work under the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. Meighan said his experience in Elgin prepared him for his new job. As a new administrator, he wants to talk with principals, who he’ll be working closely with, and also listen to staff at the elementary and middle schools.
Among the initiatives on his plate is the implementation of RTI, or Response To Intervention. The educational program helps younger kids with learning difficulties by providing specific interventions for that child. The achievement gap is another area that will have a high focus, Meighan said.
He recalled dealing with the issue as a building principal. One solution he insists works is providing mentors to those students ensnared in the gap. At Dist. 97 and in other school districts across the country, many of those students are black, in particular African-American males. The Elgin district created a program called the 10 Boys Initiative, where adults in the building would mentor 10 students, connect them with counselors and routinely monitor their grades. Those adults, Meighan said, were a diverse group, not only African Americans.
Still, the program yielded improved grades for those students, he said.
“What I found is that we did see growth. Given the time and support, all students can be academically successful,” he said.
The Chicago native actually became interested in education while serving as a tutor while in college. Originally an economics major at Northern Illinois University, he switched his major after encouragement by his students who said he would make a good teacher. He got his master’s in special education from Northeastern Illinois University, and later a doctorate in leadership and administration from Aurora University.
The father of three said his goal right now is to be a successful administrator in District 97.
“I’m excited about working in this district and helping students become academically successful,” Meighan said.
Wednesday Journal will have more stories about new school administrators in upcoming issues.