Back in the early days of his superintendency 10 years ago, Belleville District 118 administrators Matt Klosterman, Lynn Clapp and Jeff Dosier agreed they would be frequent visitors to the schools.
Clapp retired last year as assistant superintendent of curriculum, and Dosier is superintendent at Belleville District 201. However, Klosterman is still seeing the kids every chance he gets.
“We made a commitment; we wanted to be known,” Klosterman said. “I can go to a cafeteria and 85 percent of the kids will know, ‘hey, that’s Mr. Klosterman.’”
Klosterman, 56, announced Tuesday he will be retiring with full benefits when his contract is up on June 30, 2019, after 35 years in education — mostly at District 118.
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“My going isn’t as big a deal as when we have a teacher retire who’s rocking it in the classroom,” he said.
Under Klosterman’s tenure, two District 118 schools have been named National Schools of Character, including Union School in 2015. Many other schools were named as State Schools of Character.
“His legacy is probably going to be character education; it’s bloomed under his leadership,” Clapp said.
The program existed before Klosterman was named superintendent, but Clapp said Klosterman pushed school administrators to go through an application process that includes investigating their “Promising Practices.”
Dosier said he considers Klosterman a “trusted adviser” over the decades they have worked closely together. “I can count on an honest well-thought out answer when I call Matt,” Dosier said. “There’s just so many day-to-day issues that impact school districts, where it’s nice to have somebody whose been through those same situations.”
When he retires, Klosterman plans to travel with his wife, Cherie. “We have a son in Cincinnati, so we’re at least traveling that far,” he said.
They said there are several places they would both like to go but haven’t had the chance yet. Cherie Klosterman is a school psychologist at Belleville Area Special Services Cooperative.
Cherie said her husband has long worked “above and beyond” the 40-hour workweek.
“I was just telling a friend, ‘if anybody ever says to me ‘Matt Klosterman does not earn his money,’ I will tell them how often he is away or up until 12 or 1 in the morning,” she said.
“I had to go (to after school activities), but I could still take the kids with me. ... and still be with my family,” Matt Klosterman said.
He started as a school psychologist before moving into administration. He enjoys being involved with both students and being a part of the administration — a place where changes occur that help children.
“Matt’s just really connected with kids,” said Brian Mentzer, assistant superintendent at District 201 and a former principal at Franklin Elementary in District 118. “Matt kind of made it his mantra early on that it’s about relationships; (administrators) were all really engaged in classrooms. As busy as those jobs are, I know they made that a priority.”
“The kids just love him because of his playful nature. Most of the teachers would probably like to put him in timeout because of his playful nature,” Clapp said of Klosterman’s frequent classroom visits. “He’s as goofy with adults as he is with the kids; but he’s very serious. And he’s like any administrator, he tends to talk too long.”
Klosterman said it is interaction with students that help determine where the district is headed. He said a few years ago, he spoke to close to 1,300 students about “engagement,” including technology. The district had purchased iPads for the teachers, and Klosterman expected the students to clamor for their own.
“No, that wouldn’t be the best way to use the money,” he said the students initially told him. They were willing to share in small work groups; the district ended up buying the less expensive Chromebook for every student from third through eighth grade.
“From an instructional standpoint with our students, (Common Core and PARRC transitions) are going to be a major focus over the next couple of years,” Klosterman said. Common Core is learning standards in English and math, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is the standardized testing used by a number of states including Illinois.
Finding the new superintendent is beyond his purview, although the board typically has done its own searches and he expects they’ll start the process in about two years.
“The board always has had the makeup that one, they put kids first, and two, they have respect for each other. They come from varied backgrounds and don’t always agree ... but they trust,” he said.
Come fall of 2019, his focus will likely shift to travel and volunteer work with the schools and agencies he’s come to know during his tenure at 118, including the Do The Right Thing organization that recognizes students who help others, and the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce.
Cherie Klosterman doesn’t expect her husband of 30 years to rest much in retirement.
“We’ll still be talking about kids; I can’t fathom that he won’t be volunteering in some capacity at District 118,” she said.
Get to know Superintendent
Career highlights: School psychologist at Perandoe Special Education District and Belleville Area Special Services Cooperative; director of pre-kindergarten and Title 1, director of special education, assistant superintendent of finance and superintendent, all at Belleville District 118
Education: Bachelor’s from Washington University; master’s from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, administrative endorsement from SIUE; superintendency endorsement from SIU Carbondale; SIUC doctorate candidate in educational administration. Coursework is complete but not the dissertation for his doctorate. “My wife may be on me to do that (after retirement),” he said.
Family: Wife, Cherie; three sons, ages 25, 22 and 19
Hobbies: Spending time with family, watching and playing sports and volunteering