After more than 30 years at District 87 schools, superintendent Barry Reilly can see the finish line.
Reilly has informed the school board he plans to retire after the next school year, in June 2022.
“Being a superintendent, it’s a tough job. It’s very rewarding, but it’s very tough,” Reilly said. “Anyone who has done it for the length of time I have can certainly attest to that.”
Reilly has been with the district for 33 years, including the last 11 years as superintendent.
Reilly said this school year has been his toughest as superintendent because of the pandemic.
“It’s been the most difficult of my time as a superintendent,” Reilly said. “I also think many in the organization can say the same thing.”
Reilly, 55, said he informed the school board of his decision early to give the board as much time as possible to find his successor.
School board president Brigette Beasley Gibson said the board faces a challenge in finding someone as effective as Reilly has been in leading the school district.
“What I love most about him is his relationship and how he represents District 87," Gibson said. "He’s a role model in my opinion and a lot of that comes from (the fact) he grew up in the district, he had children in the district. He was first an educator. He was a principal.”
The school board plans to hold a special meeting Feb. 13 to interview superintendent search firms.
Return to the classroom
Meanwhile, District 87 plans to survey parents around spring break in March about whether they would support moving students back into the classroom five days a week.
Reilly said he hopes most teachers and faculty will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by then. He said close to 90% of teachers have said they plan to get the vaccine, but only about 40% have been vaccinated so far.
“I would love to get all kids back to a five-day week, but I don’t anticipate that we will get there,” Reilly conceded.
He said changes are unlikely since a majority of junior high and high school students took the all-virtual learning option. That's more than most other districts locally.
“We only have just over 40(%) in sixth through 12th grade,” Reilly said. “That tells you we have a community that is concerned about being in an environment where the potential exists for people to be in close proximity to others.”
Reilly said he's concerned moving from the hybrid format to five days in the classroom would cause more parents to seek the remote learning option because social distancing would be harder with twice as many students in each building.
Unit 5 has moved its hybrid learning students in grade school to all in-person instruction.
Eastland Mall appeal
In another matter related to D-87, Eastland Mall's owner has dropped its appeal to get a lower property assessment. CBL Properties had objected to a $32 million assessment the McLean County Board of Review agreed to last year.
District 87 had intervened to contest the appeal.
Reilly said the mall owners should do more to find tenants in the building rather than fight for a lower tax bill.
“It avoids the whole drawn-out process, but the problem doesn’t go away. It’s one of those things we seem to be revisiting every year,” Reilly said.
District 87 is the biggest beneficiary of revenue from the mall's property taxes.
The mall has lost four of its five anchor stores in recent years.
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