New superintendent hired

Andreea Sabau and Elaine Kim, Executive News Editor and News Editor

At a District #225 board meeting, newly hired superintendent Charles Johns (left) and current superintendent Mike Riggle exchange greetings. Johns is scheduled to assume this position on July 1. Photo by Andreea Sabau

Why come to the Glenbrooks? Charles Johns, superintendent of West Chicago Elementary District #33, had a unique answer to give while interviewing to be District #225’s new superintendent.

“Well, I’ve known about the Glenbrooks for a long time,” said Johns. “I told people in the interviews, I debated against the Glenbrooks when I was in high school, and I coached against the Glenbrooks when I was [a debate coach], and so I think they are certainly successful schools. I know the staff in the school are exceptional, and the support for the schools by the community is truly remarkable.”

Johns is set to take on the role of Glenbrook High School District #225 superintendent starting July 1 following the retirement of current superintendent Mike Riggle, who was Glenbrook North’s principal for 10 years and superintendent for 11 years. After the Board of Education hired BWP & Associates, an independent search firm, to look for a new superintendent, Johns was approved for the position on Feb. 11.

Previously, Johns spent over 20 years at Rolling Meadows High School. There, he was an English teacher for three years, assistant dean for  two years,  dean for five years, associate principal of operations for five years and principal for seven years. He also worked at Elmhurst Community Unit School District #205 as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for three years. For the past five years, he has been the superintendent of West Chicago Elementary District #33.

Johns said his experiences have taught him to value equity in education. For example, as West Chicago’s superintendent, he helped establish a dual language program where English is introduced to Spanish-speaking students earlier, but classes are also still taught in Spanish to make the transition to English easier.

“Seeing who the system does not support is, I think, an important perspective, and then looking for ways to address that,” said Johns. “When we leave people behind, I think it’s bad for our community and for our nation.”

According to Riggle, superintendents are responsible for running and representing the district. They are involved in making decisions about construction, design, curriculum and finances.

A significant moment Riggle recalls occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 when he was GBN’s principal. He was being interviewed by a Torch student when he received a phone call about the World Trade Center being struck by two airplanes. Riggle put the interview on hold and quickly directed students and staff to the main gym to convene and watch the news. He remembers helping one student get ahold of his father who was on an airplane heading to New York that day.

Riggle said he believes his legacy consists of innovations such as the one-on-one Chromebook program to provide access to technology for lower-income students, major building renovations, eliminating class rank to reduce competition among peers and hiring excellent faculty.

“If you have students who know that there are people who care about them and respect what they’re doing, then it can make all the difference in how the student engages in the school because if you show up and you feel like, ‘Well, I go through every day, but no one really cares about me,’ you just don’t give the same effort,” Riggle said.

As the start of Johns’s employment at the Glenbrooks nears, Riggle advises Johns to create new and better traditions.

“If he’s mindful of the existing conditions of our school, he’ll find things that need to be improved,” Riggle said.

Johns said he has already started to immerse himself into the school community by attending both schools’ variety shows, and he plans to continue regularly attending student events.

According to Riggle, following his retirement, he plans to move to Bloomington, Ind., the city where he grew up. He may go back to teaching, but for now he will reflect on his 39 years in education.

“I’ll miss people,” said Riggle. “I won’t miss problems. … When you basically remove yourself after 21 years of constant involvement, … it’s going to be relaxing, but it’ll always make me think, ‘I’ll wonder how [the Glenbrooks] are doing.’”