Champaign School District Gets New Superintendent
By: Hannah Ritchey and Tara Mobasseri
Though students might not have felt it, a big change took place in the Unit 4 school district. Dr. Judy Wiegand became the new superintendent. She did not land the job by chance. She has been with the school district for twenty-five years. Twenty of these years she spent at Centennial. Wiegand started as a teacher, then became a department head, got promoted to dean, on to vice principal, and eventually principal where she stayed for five and a half years.
She didn’t stop climbing the ladder at principal. She then moved to the Mellon Building when was offered the position of curriculum director. She then became assistant superintendent and is now the district superintendent. “All the way through the ranks” Wiegand says. Her dual major in special education and elementary education from Wisconsin on top of a Masters and Doctorate from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, have prepared her well. Wiegand comments, “I certainly did not foresee the super-intendency in the future when I started teaching. It’s amazing how you get into your career and certain things happen and lead you down certain paths.”
Students know that the person who holds the position of superintendent needs to be adequate for the job; they are, after all, the one who calls off school for snow days. But in this unseasonably warm winter, Wiegand hasn’t had to make that call yet. So what exactly is she doing? Describing an average day she says, “a lot of it is being out and meeting with people in the community…” she’s no longer in charge of a certain school or sector so she has to look at everything as a whole.
Wiegand is looking forward to “being able to take the initiatives that [were] started, and move them forward.” This includes renovating four elementary schools, finishing the new elementary school in Savoy, renovating Centennial and building a new Central, as well as adding smart boards to all the classrooms and installing wireless internet in all of the buildings. Finally, she wants to implement common course standards and K12. “It’s exciting to be able to take things where they’re at and move them forward” she comments.
The other goals Wiegand has set for herself during her time as superintendent are just as big. Within the early years “I want to see every kid being able to read on grade level by third grade.” Wiegand explains that third grade is an important tipping point for academics and is “very critical.” As students grow and graduate she wants their high school diploma to mean something. It doesn’t matter what their plan is as long as”… they have a plan, and they’re well prepared for it” she says.
The job also includes a lot of challenges, “sometimes you have to make decisions that you know are in the best interest for the students, and in doing so it means telling some of your colleagues that what they’re doing isn’t the right thing.” Wiegand continued “Whether it’s restructuring a department or letting people go, I think thats probably the hardest piece.”
Luckily, her experience within the school district has prepared her for these tough choices she will face with the new job. It is obvious that Wiegand is excited to get the ball rolling, but she admits the only downside to moving up is that you see the kids less. However, overall, Wiegand is very excited about her future as superintendent and proud to be a part of the Champaign Unit 4 school district!