Bill Scheffler, principal of Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in suburban Minneapolis, will assume the helm of Galesburg High School from John Browning on July 1st. Schleffler was hired by the Galesburg School Board Monday night after a nationwide search. The search began last Fall after Browning announced his intention to retire.
Schleffler, 49, is a 28-year educator who graduated from Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo. with a degree in mathematics education in 1970. He later earned a masters degree in educational administration and is currently in the midst of a doctoral program. A native of Springfield, Schleffler returned to that area to teach, coach and administer in the Chatham Glenwood school district for 18 years. During that time, he rose from a math teacher to become assistant principal of the junior high, athletic director and finally assistant high school principal. While at Glenwood High School, Schleffler became a head coach of both the boys basketball and baseball teams.
In 1988 Schleffler took the assistant principal position at Springfield High School. Five years later he was appointed principal of the school, a position he held until the start of this school year. During the summer of 1998, Schleffler took his present position in Plymouth, Minn., a year after it was initially offered to him. Plymouth is an affluent suburb of Minneapolis located in the Robbinsdale School District.
Armstrong High School is the larger of two high schools in a district that serves a population of about 100,000 spanning numerous Minneapolis suburbs. Its 2,100 students have historically been high academic performers and are served by a professional staff of 130. According to the school's web site, not only is the graduation rate very high, 95 percent of AHS graduates continue their education. The district offers over 75 school-sponsored extracurricular activities.
I contacted Schleffler by telephone Monday night. He was expected to attend the District 205 Board Meeting but the snow affected his travel plans. Speaking of his current school he said: "The mean ACT score is well above average at better than 24 and 85 percent of our graduates go on to college. I'm proud of this success but remember I have only been here for part of one school year. When I was principal of Springfield High School, I probably had as diverse a school population as you can imagine and faced different challenges."
"I definitely am happy to come to Galesburg High School in the midst of the curriculum review and look forward to participating. That's the kind of hands-on administrator I am. I believe in emphasizing writing throughout the curriculum and a school this size should place more emphasis on Advanced Placement courses. I don't like to sit in my office and I feel that it is an important part of my role to become involved or attend a lot of school activities. That's a big part of my job as principal. I also seek out input from students through a student advisory group and by maintaining an open door policy on those occasions when I'm in my office."
Springfield High School is much more diverse than Armstrong and has fewer resources. During Schleffler's five years there, he says is most proud of his work to assist "the kids in the middle." He says many schools focus on the top and bottom students leaving the middle tones to succeed or fail on their own.
"The more options you can give to the kids attending your school the more attractive school will be for those students and the more successful you can be in graduating kids. It is common to have lots of programs and options for the college-bound students or the struggling student but most kids fall in between. That is why it is important to offer as wide a range of curriculum as possible. My top goal is to identify ways to better engage my students in school programs, especially those kids in the middle."
Schleffler is very proud of his establishment of 9th grade cluster programs at Springfield High School. "A key factor in those programs was to get freshman students involved in school quickly and to help them recognize the practical value of their course work and activities. One effective means of influencing these kids was a two-day mentoring program I helped start. You can't believe how beneficial it is for kids to spend time with adults who put their education to use on a daily basis. Seeing this is much more convincing than hearing it from teachers or counselors at school. This is just one example of the valuable partnerships than can and should exist between the schools and their community."
Schleffler is married and has four grown children. His oldest son, Brad, is 25. He is a special education teacher and basketball coach in the Carpentersville Dundee-Crown schools. His daughter, Sara, is married and lives near St. Louis where she works in marketing. Elizabeth is a senior at the University of Kentucky where she is studying education and plans to teach English or social studies at a middle school after graduation. The youngest son, Matt, is a freshman at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale studying engineering on a football scholarship. Waiting for Matt to graduate high school in the Springfield area was the reason Schleffler didn't take the Armstrong High School job the first time it was offered.
Schleffler is eager to return to central Illinois because of the family he and his wife have here. "We had planned the Minnesota move to be our last move; we even bought a home there. But it soon became clear that the distance from our family was a personal hardship and by Christmas time my wife and I had decided to begin looking to return to Illinois. I'm coming to Galesburg with a commitment to stay at least five years. I've always believed that every five to eight years one should have different responsibilities or a new job and I'm excited about coming to Galesburg High School."
In one way Galesburg will be a unique situation for Schleffler. "This will be the first time in my career that I've been in a town with only one high school. I think it will be a neat experience to have the focus of the community on this building and our students but it is also a challenge. I liked the people I've met so far in Galesburg and I detected a willingness or even eagerness to make the changes necessary to improve the educational product at Galesburg High School. I look forward to making my contribution to that effort."