Nashville High School’s new superintendent is coming from a Bond County school district where he had a hand in helping students who were struggling to finish their homework.
In Mulberry Grove Unit 1, almost half of the students live in poverty, are homeless or live with foster families. And a few years ago, many of them weren’t turning in their assignments for school.
“A lot of our students go home to do homework without a lot of opportunities for someone to help them,” said Bobby Koontz, the elementary school principal.
Incoming Nashville superintendent Brad Turner started the conversation in Mulberry Grove about what the district could do, according to Koontz. Turner has worked as superintendent there for the last four years.
Koontz said they decided to give students time to finish their work after school. Teachers also started giving them assignments for the week on Fridays, so they could get help when their parents were off work on weekends.
At the end of the school year, Turner will leave Mulberry Grove to take over as superintendent of Nashville Community High School District 99, where an average of almost 30 percent of the students were considered low-income in the last five years.
Mulberry Grove Unit 1 is about the same size but teaches students in pre-K through high school. Nashville has a separate district for students in pre-K through eighth grade.
Turner, 40, will start his new job on July 1. He admits that he has more to learn about the district.
Eventually, he says he wants to talk to teachers, staff and community members about what they’re doing for Nashville students now and what they want to see their school district do in the future. The first step will be introducing himself, Turner said.
“People aren’t going to hop in a boat with you to head down some mission when they don’t know you, they don’t trust you,” he said. “… As we go through the first year, we’ll start having some of those conversations about mission.”
Koontz, who works closely with Turner in Mulberry Grove, said he made the staff there feel like they could voice their opinions. For the last three years, Koontz and Turner have shared the duties of the junior and senior high school principal, a position that wasn’t filled when it became available during the state budget impasse to save the district money.
Turner describes himself as a collaborative and visible leader and says he wants to focus on growth when he comes to Nashville.
“There is no finish line where you say, ‘We’re as good as we can be. We’re as good as we’re ever going to be,’” he said.
The union later called for Fowler’s resignation or removal over a column published in the local newspaper at the end of August, ahead of a Nashville girls volleyball game. Fowler wrote about his experience playing volleyball in high school, including his memory of a girl’s “well-developed assets” across the net during a game.
The teachers’ union couldn’t be reached for comment, but in the past, it has written about the qualities its members want in a superintendent:
“Nashville Community High School needs honest and professional support for teachers, sound decision-making and communication skills, as well as careful stewardship regarding district financial resources,” the union stated in May.
About Brad Turner
Turner’s 18 years in education has taken him to five school districts in Illinois and Iowa. But he says he hopes to spend the rest of his career in Nashville District 99.
Turner said he moved around to find leadership roles in education, like his dad had when he was working as an administrator in Turner’s youth.
His family’s traveling ended in Columbia, Illinois, where Turner finished high school and where his parents live today.
“We moved seven or eight times during my school years, so it’s kind of a lifestyle that I’m used to, so to speak,” he said. “Although it’s not one that I hope to continue.”
Before he became a superintendent in Mulberry Grove, Turner said he worked as an assistant principal at Bond County Unit 2 High School in Greenville and at Southwestern High School in Piasa.
He spent seven years in high school science classrooms as a teacher at Prairie Central High School in Fairbury and at West Delaware High School in Manchester, Iowa.
Turner said he plans to move to Nashville this summer with his wife Stacy and sons Isaac, 14, Gannon, 9, and Hawkins, 4.
Nashville High School has about 425 students and 28 teachers on average, according to state data. As the school’s new leader, Turner’s salary will be $125,000 for the 2018-19 school year. He has a three-year contract with the district.
At a glance
- Name: Brad Turner
- Age: 40
- Position: Nashville Community High School District 99 superintendent
- Education: Bachelor’s degree from Culver-Stockton College in Missouri; master’s degree from Eastern Illinois University
- Experience: Two years as West Delaware High School science teacher; five years as Prairie Central High School science teacher; three years as Southwestern High School assistant principal; four years as Bond County Unit 2 High School assistant principal; and four years as Mulberry Grove Unit 1 superintendent, with three years sharing the duties of Mulberry Grove Junior and Senior high schools principal
- Family: Wife Stacy and three sons: Isaac, Gannon and Hawkins