Education

Smithton superintendent resigns to take new position

Smithton District 130’s superintendent will resign to take a new leadership role at the state level.

Susan Homes will become the Illinois Principals Association’s deputy director for professional development after her replacement is hired in Smithton.

She has worked in education for 35 years now, but there was a time when she was sure she didn’t want to be a teacher.

“I was not the child that taught to her teddy bears or to her stuffed animals... That just was not on my radar screen,” she said. Two supportive educators and one dismissive marketing director changed her mind.

Homes said her sixth-grade teacher took an interest in her at a time when she was struggling socially and emotionally because of bullying. Later, a high school teacher encouraged her to apply for college when her parents didn’t.

She decided in college that she wanted to major in marketing. “I loved to write. I loved to draw,” Homes said. But she said everything changed during an internship interview at a corporation where her uncle worked in management. She sat down with the marketing director, who Homes said dismissed her because she was a young woman and because of her family connection.

“Then and there I thought, ‘I have to prove myself, and I’m going to prove myself. I’m going to prove my worth,’” Homes said. “And these teachers that I had believed in me. That is really what has kept me going.”

Homes changed her major and later became a business teacher at a Wisconsin high school. Then, she taught technology classes at the college level before her husband’s job brought them to the St. Louis area.

Homes, 57, lives in Maryville today with her husband Dan. They have two sons, William and Bradley.

When she got to the metro-east, Homes said she continued teaching at local colleges, including Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

She also started volunteering to help set up computers at her youngest son’s new school in Collinsville Unit 10. She later become the district’s first technology director. She was promoted to Unit 10’s assistant superintendent before eventually coming to work as Smithton District 130’s superintendent in 2013.

Homes said she wasn’t planning to leave Smithton. She had even agreed to a four-year extension to her contract in February. But the Illinois Principals Association recruited her for the deputy director position because of her background in technology and her leadership experience.

“I just almost have to pinch myself because it almost doesn’t seem real,” she said.

Homes will be responsible for the professional development for the association’s members across the state.

“It’s helping to carve out a new branch of leaders for education at a time when it’s hard to find people that want to go into education,” she said of her new role.

Homes said the search is currently underway for her replacement in Smithton. She agreed to stay in District 130 until the end of December “if the (school) board can’t find that candidate that they’re looking for,” she said.

The incoming superintendent can look forward to working with a welcoming staff and small, involved community with students who are excited to learn, according to Homes. District 130 also faces several issues, like a lack of state funding and a student population that has outgrown the existing building.

Homes said her departure doesn’t change the need for an estimated $2.7 million expansion.

“I think they still have to move forward with that,” she said. “I think the community wants that, and the kids deserve it.”

Since voters rejected a proposed sales tax increase for school repairs, Homes said the school board has to decide whether to ask residents for approval to take on new debt.

As she prepares to leave Smithton, Homes said she’s realized she’ll miss the students most.

“I’ve already asked the building principal if I can Skype in with some of the kids next year,” she said.

Homes plans to share the story of the unlikely path to her career with Smithton’s eighth graders during their graduation ceremony Tuesday night.

“It’s just really hard to believe all these years later that I had no intent of being a teacher and here I am, hopefully having a great impact at the state level, helping people who are in this profession,” she said.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

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