During a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, the District 150 school board voted unanimously on a contract making Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat the acting superintendent until August 7th. Desmoulin-Kherat will then become interim superintendent through June 30th, 2016. The contract includes a base salary of $185,000.
Desmoulin-Kherat had previously worked for District 150 12 years and is a former Manual Academy principal who resigned in 2011 because of differences with then-superintendent Grenita Lathan. Lathan resigned last month. Most recently, Desmoulin-Kherat was the associate superintendent at Danville Public Schools.
Desmoulin-Kherat had yet to resign at Danville prior to the board’s vote, but told 1470 & 100.3 WMBD she would be submitting her resignation Tuesday afternoon.
“I am humbled and honored to serve District 150 at this critical time,” Desmoulin-Kherat told the board following its vote and to reporters during a news conference following the meeting. She thanked the board for “the confidence and the opportunity to assist in identifying innovative ways to support growth in our District.”
“This is not a job in a new city for me, this is home. And, there’s no place like home,” Desmoulin-Kherat said. “I truly love our District and I love our city.”
Desmoulin-Kherat noted she grew up in Peoria, attended Bradley University, she was married in Peoria 25 years ago and her son recently graduated from Richwoods High School.
Desmoulin-Kherat says her urgent priorities are staffing for the upcoming school year, improving relationships within the community, reducing the budget deficit, a board-approved strategic plan and exploring alternative education options for children.
“I like to use the four agreements as a guide I’ve used throughout my career,” Desmoulin-Kherat explained. “Being impeccable with our words in any situation we’re in, doing the very best we can, not taking anything personally and not making any assumptions.”
Desmoulin-Kherat claimed the ability to bring the community and stakeholders together is one of her strengths.
“There are so many individuals with great ideas. I’m an innovator. I like to see things being done differently. Doing the same thing over and over, we know the result of that.”
Desmoulin-Kherat says she believes the District can get its budget in order. District 150’s year-end budget for the fiscal year ending June 30 showed a $13.6-million deficit.
“Yes, the state has it’s challenges,” Desmoulin-Kherat said, “but there are things we can do to control spending. (The deficit) is not fair to our city and our taxpayers. Something needs to be done ASAP.”
When asked if she will be meeting with the former superintendent during her transition, Desmoulin-Kherat responded, “We can collaborate if there’s a need to. There are really no problems with us. We’ve had conversations since I left Peoria. Remember my four agreements, not take anything personally is one of them. I don’t have a problem with having a conversation with the former superintendent if need be.”
District 150 has been criticized recently for travel requests presented to the board totaling nearly $400,000. Title I and II grant funds were used to pay for training sessions and workshops this summer for nearly 200 staff members. One trip alone to Orlando, Florida sends 163 employees for AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) training at a cost of nearly $300,000.
Desmoulin-Kherat says she’s a supporter of AVID. She says she even sent a team from Danville to Peoria to take a look at AVID at the elementary level since Danville had it at the middle and high school level. Desmoulin-Kherat calls AVID a “good strategy and practice,” but, “what we need to determine is if it’s giving us the bang for the buck. Are we getting our money’s worth? We’ve invested a lot of money in it, so what are we getting for that?”