D-300 meets its new superintendent

Administrator touts his reputation as a ‘fixer’ of low-performing schools

ALGONQUIN – A self-proclaimed "fixer" of Florida schools, Fred Heid said Wednesday he plans on listening to staff and teachers before addressing issues like the achievement gap at District 300.

But the Carpentersville-based school district's newly approved superintendent will have to wait on the Illinois Board of Education before he can make formal decisions.

On Wednesday, district board members approved a three-year contract with Heid, a top administrator at Duval County Public Schools in Florida, and then announced he would carry the title of chief executive officer when he starts Monday.

An out-of-state candidate, Heid has to wait on the state board to finish reviewing his coursework at Capella University that made him a certified superintendent.

Until that review finishes, Heid will work daily in the chief administrator role while former District 300 Superintendent Ken Arndt serves as interim. The state review could take up to 120 days, Heid said.

"I'll do everything I can to accelerate the timeline," Heid said. "Day to day, I'll be here, and he and I will collaborate on any major decisions with the state as far as reporting and documentation."

Arndt would be compensated roughly $340 a day for each day he works, but he will mostly be needed in limited instances to sign official documents, said Board Vice President Joe Stevens. Arndt, a longtime District 300 superintendent, retired from the position in 2011.

The contract members approved with Heid pays the replacement to Superintendent Michael Bregy a base salary of $210,000, plus benefits. Bregy leaves District 300 on Thursday to become North Shore District 112 superintendent in Highland Park.

Bureaucratic reviews aside, Heid said he is thrilled to start working at District 300.

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, the chief academic officer at Duval County schools – serving roughly 124,000 students – said he liked District 300 for its size and diversity.

Before starting at Duval County in 2012, Heid worked at Florida's education department and an Orange County, Florida, middle school. The District 300 job marks the fourth job he will start in the past five years, but Heid quickly ended speculation that he is a job hopper.

He previously had been recruited to those past positions because of his reputation as a "fixer," who turned around low-performing schools in Florida, he said. Asked whether he plans on staying long at District 300, Heid smiled.

"I'm planning to stay as long as you'll have me," he said. "I'm not a job hunter. I'm very loyal. This is my first opportunity and one I know will truly grow and flourish in the community. I'm thrilled to be here."

Heid spent a whirlwind of a day meeting with top district administrators, union teacher leaders and school principals before catching a flight back to Jacksonville, Florida, early Thursday morning to finish packing for the new job on Monday.

Once here, Heid will live at the Extended Stay hotel near Elgin before being reunited with his wife and elementary-aged son this summer, he said. They've already looked at homes in Gilberts and Sleepy Hollow.

The time Heid spent listening to staff will likely continue. He wants to listen to their concerns before working to address any issues he sees at District 300.

But he already has eyed the school data and thinks he could help the district address the achievement gap between white and minority students.

"I like to see us focus on closing the achievement gap with a goal of proficiency in mind and not just learning gains," Heid said. "Until I get here and talk with teachers and administrators, then we will make a decision on our first steps."

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