A Superintendent's Legacy

By Jim Hook

Ken Sorrick recently retired after eight years as superintendent of North Palos School District 117, a culturally diverse, 3,100-student elementary school district southwest of Chicago. As he departed, the 58-year-old leader left his stamp on a district he helped lead from “Good to Great” -- the phrase made famous by management guru Jim Collins. Sorrick played an integral role in shaping the district through a vision that stressed educational excellence for all students. When he became superintendent, the district’s situation was nowhere near as bright as it is today. Students were performing at or below the state average on sections of the Illinois Standardized Achievement Test (ISAT), and the district was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

The school board believed the students should be performing at a much higher level, and so did the new superintendent. In fact, Sorrick had his plan for resurrecting the district ready when he walked in for his first interview.

District 117 Board President Mark Gambla remembers Sorrick arriving “with a whole new vision and philosophy for our district.” His goals were to improve the academic achievement of all students and to pass a referendum to provide the financial resources needed to raise achievement. He accomplished both, says Gambla.

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