Depth of experience marks choice for State Schools
Illinois’ newly appointed State Superintendent of Education brings
a wealth of experience to the position, including top leadership positions
in three other state education agencies and several local school systems.
“Dr. Robert Schiller brings an impressive mix of knowledge, skills
and experience to help Illinois schools and students,” said Ronald
J. Gidwitz, chair of the State Board of Education. “He has the proven
ability to lead diverse educational systems and produce measurable improvements
that help students succeed.”
“In three other states, he has shown that he can work effectively
with governors and legislators with widely variant political perspectives
to achieve support for schools. We fully expect him to be successful in
Illinois using that same proven, nonpartisan approach to meeting the needs
of schools and students.”
“Some have suggested that the State Board wait to appoint a Superintendent
until a new governor is elected,” Gidwitz said. “Not only
is it the Constitutional responsibility of the State Board to select the
State Superintendent, is it imperative that we maintain strong, consistent
leadership of this most important function. No matter how capable the
person who is asked to fill in –and Res Vazquez has done an outstanding
job—the absence of designated long-term leadership takes some of
the momentum from school improvement efforts. We must aggressively continue
to progress in helping students achieve.”
Members of the State Board of Education voted Thursday to appoint Schiller,
55, now the Superintendent, CEO and Chief Financial Officer of the 45,000-student
Caddo Parish Public School District in Shreveport, Louisiana. He will
assume the Illinois position August 1, 2002.
“I am honored to have been asked by State Board members to join
in their efforts to support Illinois schools,” Schiller said. “Illinois
has rigorous standards and Illinois schools are well on their way to integrating
those standards in their daily activities. I look forward to the challenge
of continuing that progress.”
Schiller’s track record includes leadership of the turnaround of
the Baltimore City Public Schools. In 1997, he was asked by the Maryland
governor, legislature and state board of education to serve as Interim
CEO of the 109,000-student system that was being reorganized through a
partnership between the city and state. Spearheading a restructuring that
established a strong, independent system, Schiller eliminated the $27
million debt and designed the state-approved five-year strategic plan.
By law, the Interim CEO could not be hired as the permanent CEO.
Schiller joined the Caddo Parish public schools in 1999 and is credited
with raising student achievement to the district’s highest level
while also increasing the district’s fund balances to their highest
levels. The district now has seven schools designated by the U.S. Education
dept. as “Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence” and has the three
top-rated schools in the state.
Last spring, the district received an overall Excellent rating from the
“This search process allowed us to review the credentials of many
highly qualified candidates,” said State Board member Marjorie Branch
of Chicago. “We had a virtual ‘United Nations’ of candidates
in the diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and geography. After that
thorough review, I am confident that we have selected a proven educational
leader who will serve well the citizens of Illinois.”
From 1991 to 1996, Schiller was the State Superintendent of Public Instruction
for the state of Michigan. As Michigan State Superintendent, he also chaired
the State Board of Education, the State Community College Board, the Higher
Education Assistance Authority, the State Disability Determination Services,
and State Rehabilitation Services.
Prior to accepting the Michigan superintendency, he served as Deputy
State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Delaware and
as Deputy State Superintendent of Education for the state of Louisiana.
For the previous 19 years, Schiller served three school districts in
New Jersey as teacher, vice-principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent.
The State Board began the search process last fall after Glenn W. McGee
announced that he would not seek an extension of his contract that expired
December 31, 2001. Board members conducted focus groups and several meetings
throughout the state to get constituents’ input on qualities desired
in the position. An executive search firm assisted in locating candidates
meeting the criteria and helped guide the process.
More than 30 individuals either applied for or were nominated for the
announced opening. Board members conducted interviews with several finalists
who best met the criteria for the position. Board members reported that
Schiller was selected from a final pool of “outstanding candidates.”
“We began this process with high expectations,” reported
Janet Steiner, State Board member from Carlinville and a member of the
Search Committee. “Dr. Schiller met each of those high expectations.
He brings an outstanding record of accomplishments as a state superintendent,
local school superintendent, teacher and principal.”
Schiller earned a B.A. degree in Economics from Upsala College and an
M.A. degree in English from the University of Mississippi. He also holds
master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania
Graduate School of Education.
The salary and contract for Schiller is similar to the contract for the
last superintendent and includes performance measures in four areas: student
performance, systemic academic improvement, leadership and management.