School & District Management Reporter's Notebook

Superintendent-Principal Juggles 2 Jobs in Illinois

By Jessica L. Tonn — October 31, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When an audience member at a conference here asked David D. Gilliland last week what things don’t get done in his district because he serves as both the superintendent and the only high school principal, he fired off an answer right away.

“A social life,” he said without hesitation.

Mr. Gilliland, 48, who has been the superintendent of the 460-student Spoon River Valley, Ill., school district and the principal of its 200-student high school for the past two years, minced no words when describing the challenges of his job. He spoke during a session titled “The Balancing Act of Being Superintendent/Principal” at the National Rural Education Association’s annual conference.

Ever since the district, located 30 miles west of Peoria, decided to combine the two jobs to save money, Mr. Gilliland said, he has had to “live the school and live the district.”

And even within the district, he doesn’t have time for everything.

“I don’t get into the classroom as much as I would like, and that makes me feel bad,” said Mr. Gilliland, a former high school English teacher who has been an educator for 27 years.

But the combined role is not without its benefits.

As the superintendent, he has a much better feel for the district’s budget and spending priorities than most principals. For example, when a high school teacher comes to him with a spending request, he can respond right away.

“I don’t have to go to the superintendent [for the answer],” he said. “I am the superintendent.”

In that role, he’s able to make quick decisions with the school board about alternative academic opportunities for his students, such as dual-credit programs and online courses. He also has direct control over teaching assignments and student placements in his school.

Mr. Gilliland earns $80,000 a year as superintendent and $25,000 as principal. The district estimates that it saves $50,000 a year by having him fill both positions. The district’s annual budget is $3.8 million.

That savings is nearly equal to the salaries of two teachers, according to Mr. Gilliland. The district has a total of 28 teachers, including those for special education. In addition to the grade 7-12 high school, the district has a K-6 elementary school.

Escalante Middle School is two miles away from the edge of Durango, a Colorado town of 15,000.

Eighty-six miles outside Denver, South Park High School in Fairplay, Colo., is “two miles from nothing,” Douglas E. Geverdt, a social and demographic statistician with the U.S. Census Bureau, told the 260 attendees at one of the Oct. 23-25 conference’s general sessions.

Under the geographic classification system used since the 1980s by the National Center for Education Statistics, both are classified as rural schools. But because the classification system uses county lines to delineate metropolitan areas, Escalante is considered outside a metropolitan area, while South Park is considered inside.

Such examples have led the statisticians at the NCES and the Census Bureau to revise the locale classifications over the past two years.

As a result, small-town and rural schools will now be defined by their proximity to urban centers.

Under the new typology, Escalante is classified as a “rural fringe” school, and South Park is “rural remote.”

“In a rural situation, you kind of want to know how far away you are from what,” Mr. Geverdt said.

Thirty-three high school students at the Van Buren Technology Center in Lawrence, Mich., volunteered their time to prepare 322 federal and state income-tax returns for community members last spring.

None of those 322 returns was flagged by the Internal Revenue Service for missing information or errors. It was the only tax-preparation site in the state of Michigan to have a perfect record, program organizers say.

The students’ efforts earned the 2006 NREA Community and Rural Education Service, or CARES, award for the 17,700-student Van Buren Intermediate School District. The award, which includes a $5,000 prize for the district, was presented to Tom Richardson, a business, finance, and management teacher at Van Buren, and Seth Carlson, an 18-year-old freshman at Hope College in Holland, Mich., who led the project as a senior last school year.

Each student who participated in the program received 13 college credits and became certified by the IRS to work for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistant Program. VITA sites serve individuals who earn $38,000 or less per year.

The students filed tax returns that resulted in $257,000 in refunds for residents, according to Mathew T. Dutkiewicz, a senior vice president of Great American Financial Resources Inc., the Cincinnati-based financial- and retirement-planning company that sponsors the award.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 2006 edition of Education Week


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management How Principals Can Resolve Heated Conflicts With Parents and Teachers
Three tips for school leaders to manage complicated and emotional disagreements.
4 min read
Illustration of a large hand holding a puzzle piece that shows a handshake and that connects two other pieces -- one with a man and the other with a woman.
School & District Management Where Is K-12 Enrollment Headed? Population Trends, by the Numbers
America's public schools will have fewer students in the coming years, but population changes vary widely by state.
1 min read
Illustration of people icon.
School & District Management How to Have a Hard Conversations With Your Teachers: 3 Tips for Principals
Here are three small steps that can ease the pain of a difficult conversation between a principal and teacher.
3 min read
Photo of two women having discussion.
School & District Management How Have School Leaders Responded to the Trump Shooting?
When a tragic national incident happens in the middle of the summer, do school officials feel compelled to respond?
4 min read
A crowd waits for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump to speak at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024.
A crowd waits for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump to speak at the campaign event in Butler, Pa., on July 13, 2024, before a shooting took place.
Gene J. Puskar/AP