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East and West Aurora school districts name new leaders

Jesse Rodriguez was selected as East Aurora's new superintendent. | Submitted

Jesse Rodriguez was selected as East Aurora's new superintendent. | Submitted

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Updated: March 5, 2014 6:24AM

Both East and West Aurora school districts named news superintendents Monday night.

East Aurora

East Aurora School Board members approved a bilingual Milwaukee Public Schools official to serve as the district’s next superintendent on Monday night.

Jesse J. Rodriguez, 39, will replace Jerome Roberts, who is retiring this year after heading East Aurora since 2006.

Rodriguez is one of four regional executive specialists for Milwaukee Public Schools, a role in which he oversees the district’s southwest region, which contained 31 schools last year, according to MPS data. MPS is Wisconsin’s largest district with about 78,500 students attending 165 schools.

About 80 percent of MPS students are low-income, according to district data, and 9 percent are English-language learners. The district is 56 percent African-American, 24 percent Hispanic, 14 percent white and 6 percent Asian.

Last school year, the district received a “fails to meet expectations,” the lowest accountability score from the state.

That year, 15 percent of MPS students in grades 3 to 8 and 10 were proficient in reading and 21 percent were proficient in math. That’s compared to the statewide averages of 36 percent proficient in reading and 48 percent proficient in math.

Rodriguez previously served as an MPS regional director for school support and a teacher and principal.

“As I toured the different schools last week, it was obvious that this will be a great place to live and work,” Rodriguez said of East Aurora in a news release. “I am drawn to the challenge and I feel fortunate to be coming into a district that has made so much progress in the last few years.”

Rodriguez holds a master’s in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee and is a doctoral candidate in leadership, learning and service at the same university.

School Board President Annette Johnson said in a news release that the district was “inspired by Jesse Rodriguez’s story” and “convinced by his results.”

Rodriguez was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Milwaukee at 14 speaking only Spanish. He learned English in an MPS bilingual program.

“I am a product of public schools and I believe in their quest to close the achievement gap and engage all students in meaningful learning,” he said in the East Aurora statement.

Rodriguez taught Spanish from 1997 to 2001 at an MPS high school. He later was an assistant principal at an MPS charter middle school and served as the vice president for education at La Causa, which operates an MPS elementary charter school focused on bilingual education and English as a Second Language instruction.

Rodriguez also is a past president of the Wisconsin Association for Bilingual Education. Because he works in Wisconsin, his appointment is subject to his receiving the proper license and endorsement to be a superintendent in Illinois.

Rodriguez was selected from a pool of more than 70 applicants, according to East Aurora.

The district worked with an executive search firm to develop an ideal superintendent profile and recruit candidates.

The firm conducted public forums, focus groups and an online survey that found East Aurora community members valued a superintendent who could lead in an ethnically and culturally diverse community, inspire trust in the community and model high standards.

Rodriguez is married to wife Elizabeth, who is a middle school teacher. They have three children who attend MPS.

West Aurora

West Aurora School Board members approved the appointment of an Iowa district leader and former Oswego East High School principal as West Aurora’s new superintendent Monday night.

Jeffrey W. Craig, 53, will take the reins as the district’s top official on July 1, replacing James Rydland, who has served as West Aurora’s superintendent since 2005.

Rydland announced last June that we would retire from his post this year, with three years left on his contract.

“Joining the District 129 team provides an opportunity to work with trusted colleagues, build and develop a leadership team, while continuing to improve upon the great work with students, staff and community partners,” Craig said in a district statement.

For the last year, Craig has been the superintendent at Interstate 35 Community School District, a three-school system based in Truro, Iowa, about 40 miles south of Des Moines.

Interstate 35 had 928 students enrolled last school year at one elementary school, one middle school and one high school, according to Iowa Department of Education data.

Students in the district were 93 percent white, 2 percent Hispanic and 2 percent black, according to state data. The district had a 97 percent graduation rate in school year 2011-12, the latest data available, which was above the state average of 89 percent.

Prior to working at Interstate 35, Craig worked for 11 years as a principal in three high schools, according to a West Aurora news release, which had larger enrollments and more diverse student bodies.

Craig served as principal at nearby Oswego East High School from 2008 to 2013. The school had an enrollment last year of 2,067 that was 53 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black and 8 percent Asian, according to state data.

He previously served as principal at Rich East High School in south suburban Park Forest from 2004 to 2008. The school had an enrollment last year of 1,104 that was 85 percent black, 7 percent white and 4 percent Hispanic. Craig also served as principal at Central High School in Davenport, Iowa, which had an enrollment last year of 1,435 that was 56 percent white, 24 percent black and 12 percent Hispanic.

“Dr. Craig brings with him an outstanding background as a strong and dynamic leader who has demonstrated his commitment to improve student learning in a number of diverse environments,” West Aurora School Board President Neal Ormond said in a statement. “He has earned an impressive reputation for being visible and accessible to the communities he has served, as well as being an inspiring, positive advocate for students and staff alike.”

Craig holds a doctorate of education from the University of Illinois-Champaign, a master’s in administration and supervision from Loyola University Chicago and a bachelor’s in education-industrial arts from Northern Illinois University.

Craig also has served as a high school wrestling coach and as a member of state and national wrestling officials associations.

The district received 50 applicants for the position, according to a West Aurora news release.

West Aurora worked with an executive search firm to develop an ideal superintendent profile and to recruit candidates.

The search firm conducted focus groups, public forums and an online survey that found the West Aurora community wanted a superintendent with a high level of financial expertise and experience working in a large, diverse school system who could build partnerships.

The superintendent’s annual base salary will be $190,000.

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