Tuesday was a bittersweet day for employees of Southwestern Community Unit School District No. 9 in Brighton.
They learned that their beloved superintendent, Brad Skertich, 43, of Staunton, is leaving after nine years to lead Collinsville Community Unit School District No. 10.
Southwestern High School secretary Suzanne Brewer said she’ll miss his caring attitude and uncanny ability to remember the names of students, parents and others in the community.
“I told my first-grader that he was leaving, and he just sobbed into a pillow, and that speaks volumes about him,” said Brewer, who has five children in district schools. “Collinsville is getting the best.”
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Collinsville School Board members voted to hire Skertich at their meeting Monday night. He will replace Superintendent Robert Green, 66, of Collinsville, who’s retiring in July.
The Collinsville district is more than four times the size of Southwestern, which serves about 1,500 students in Brighton, Medora, Piasa and Shipman in Macoupin, Jersey and Greene counties. Collinsville is less rural and more diverse.
“I’m excited about the challenge,” Skertich said Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Skertich’s “core beliefs” include the importance of open communication, transparency and collaboration and making decisions in the best interest of students.
Skertich grew up in Staunton and graduated from Staunton High School. He was a starter with its Class A state championship basketball team in 1993, but he objects to being called a “basketball star.”
“I was a member of a team,” he said. “It takes five players, and everyone has his role.”
Family of educators
Both Skertich’s parents are retired educators. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Illinois State University in Normal and a master’s at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He expects to complete his doctorate at SIUE this summer.
Skertich began his education career as a math teacher at Triad Middle School in Troy and served as principal at Wolf Ridge Education Center and Meissner Junior High in Bunker Hill before becoming Southwestern’s superintendent in 2010.
Southwestern High School Principal Mark Bearley had nothing but praise for Skertich, who promoted him from teacher to principal nine years ago.
“He’s a great guy,” Bearley said. “He’s a great leader. He leads by example. He sets high standards for himself, and he challenges those around him to rise to the same standards.
“He’s very personable. He’s never met a stranger. He’s not stuffy by any means. He’s fun. He likes to joke around. He’s charismatic. He works hard. He’s been a great mentor to me.”
Southwestern High School Registrar Tammy Seymour said Skertich always rewarded students with soda, usually Mountain Dew, if they beat Staunton teams in basketball, baseball, softball, football or scholar bowl.
Passing the torch
Green has been an educator for 45 years, the last eight in Collinsville. He formerly served as a school superintendent in Indiana and a principal, government and geography teacher and coach in Oklahoma.
“You do this because you love kids,” he said. “You want to see them learn and grow and become the best that they can be.”
Green’s last day with the school district is July 10. He said his first order of business will be to “relax and unwind.”
Green and his wife, Jill, are taking a trip to Israel this fall and spending the winter in South Texas.
“I will not have to set my alarm and check the weather and drive around to see if it’s safe to have buses and kids and teachers out on the roads,” Green said. “That’s a joke among superintendents.”
‘Right person’ for job
Skertich plans to move from Staunton to the Collinsville area in the coming months.
His wife, Stacy, works for Wells Fargo. They have a 11-year-old daughter, Olivia.
“My family means the world to me, and I needed to make sure a career change will be be good for my wife and daughter, too,” Skertich said. “The Collinsville School District’s academic offerings, traditions, service opportunities and wide-ranging extracurricular activities are appealing to me as an educator and a parent.”
In his free time, Skertich enjoys spending time with family members, who are die-hard Chicago Bears football fans. They also enjoy water-skiing and being out in his parents’ boat.
According to a press release, Collinsville School Board members devoted a significant amount of time over eight months to find the right person to fill Green’s shoes. They described Skertich as a “student-centered educator.”
“We were pleased to have a number of highly qualified candidates apply for the position, but Brad stood out to all of us from the beginning,” board President Gary Peccola stated. “The more we learned about him, the more we felt his experience, qualifications and personality were what we were looking for.”