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McHenry County Board taps new regional superintendent of schools

The position of regional superintendent of schools has been filled after a nearly yearlong search that started with two resignations and included a candidate withdrawing due to his previous arrest record being exposed.

The McHenry County Board has unanimously approved Leslie Schermerhorn to fill the elected office, which performs duties such as renewing teacher certificates, inspecting schools before they open and auditing school districts.

Schermerhorn is the assistant principal at LaSalle Language Academy in Chicago. She maintains residencies in both Chicago and Bull Valley.

Prior to working in the educational system for more than 13 years, she was an attorney.

“I felt like this was the logical next step for me to have a larger impact on children,” said Schermerhorn, a graduate of Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock. “I thought this would be a good challenge.”

The position has been vacant since June after outgoing regional superintendent Gene Goeglein retired a month early. Assistant superintendent Joe Williams, his elected Republican successor, later turned down the position because it was unpaid.

After funding was restored during the fall veto session, the majority of candidates were then turned away because they did not meet the qualifications needed to apply.

A potential candidate was expected to fill the position in February until county leaders learned his past included a sentence for driving under the influence. He later withdrew his application.

The Lake County Regional Office of Education has been assisting the county in fulfilling the state-mandated duties throughout the search process.

“It hasn’t been easy, but I think we finally found the right person,” said County Board Chairman Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake. Leslie Schermerhorn “met all of the requirements and has the commitment to do the right things for the students.”

Schermerhorn will resign from her assistant principal role within the Chicago Public Schools system and begin her role as regional superintendent on May 1. The Republican will have to run for a full term in the November election.

Her top priorities are increasing diversity in the county school systems, increasing graduation rates and preparing students for college and the workplace, among others.

The open slot came shortly after Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to eliminate funding for the 44 state regional offices, including superintendents, from the state budget. That changed in November, when legislators approved funding the position for the remainder of the fiscal year — through June.

Salaries are being paid for from the personal property replacement taxes distributed to local governments each year.

The salary for Schermerhorn is more than $100,000.

“I’m making a calculated risk because I am fully aware that funding could be cut again,” she said. “But I believe in the need for this office and am committed.”

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