January/February 2019

Conference internships program helps prepare district leaders

By Gary Adkins

Gary Adkins is director of communications/editorial services for IASB and editor of The Illinois School Board News Blog.

Over the past 15 years, IASB has hosted 87 interns of educational administration studies from 17 different universities at the Joint Annual Conference.

IASB created the Educational Administrative Internship program in 2003, in conjunction with the Illinois Council of Professors of Educational Administration (ICPEA). Although that organization represents professors from nearly four dozen universities across the state, the majority of the interns have come from Eastern Illinois University, the University of Illinois-Springfield, Western Illinois University, Illinois State University, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Those six universities are active participants in ICPEA.

Nominations are solicited every spring and an in-house committee screens the applications. Selection typically comes down to distributing the internships across a wide representation of the schools that choose to participate, and among the candidates who are closest to finishing their certificate or doctorate requirements. Preference is also given to candidates who have never attended the Joint Annual Conference.

Former ICPEA president James Rosborg recalls the organization voting unanimously to financially support IASB’s efforts to continue the program.

“In a time period where we are seeing fewer and fewer individuals go into school administration, [there is great value in] the collaborative effort between IASB and ICPEA to use additional sources at the Chicago conference to both reward and further develop our future leaders,” said Rosborg. “ICPEA continues to support the intern program because we feel the activities at the Conference enhance the preparation of future school leaders and give the intern a practical preparation for future administrative positions.”

The program has been helpful in the development of many licensed, well-qualified superintendents, including Saundra Russell-Smith, principal of Sandburg Elementary school in Joliet CUSD 86, who recalls:   “The Ed Admin Internship program was instrumental for me because, as a doctoral candidate, I was studying and researching all of the aspects of the superintendency, but was not truly interacting with those statewide stakeholders whose positions I hoped to hold one day. I was able to meet and interact with superintendents, professors, board members, and other state- and district-level educators who impact the state of education for thousands of students.”

Specifically, the presentations provided a chance “for those practitioners of education around the state to share information with educators in the trenches about where education is headed in the next few years. It was truly a unique way for me to get exposure to a level of leadership that most students, even ones who are in building-level leadership, don’t get to see ,“ said Russell-Smith.

The list of former interns who have become superintendents is quite impressive. Twenty-six previous participants are or have been employed as superintendents in IASB member districts, including the following with their current member district: Dawn Elser, Central SD 104; Joshua Stafford, Vienna HSD 13-3; Scott Riddle, CUSD 4-Mendon; Charles Bleyer, Wabash CUSD 348; David Deets, Harmony Emge SD 175; Nathaniel Wilson, DeSoto Cons SD 86; Michelle Lindenmeyer, Stewardson-Strasburg CUSD 51; Stan Adcock, Paw PAW CUSD 271; Dan Cox, Staunton CUSD 6; Scott Doerr, Nokomis CUSD 22; Jonathan Green, Meridian CUSD 101; Michael Curry,   Abingdon-Avon CUSD 276; Rolf Sivertsen, Canton Union SD 66; Andy Henrikson, Mundelein ESD 75; Damian Jones, Argenta-Oreana CUSD 1; Andrew D. Johnson,   Jasper Co CUSD 1; Nathan Schilling, Lansing SD 158; Steven Mayerhofer, Altamont CUSD 10; and Dave Roberts, Winchester CUSD 1.

Other participants work in other administrative capacities, or have retired, moved to other work, or continue to work in education outside of Illinois.

IASB has continued to maintain the program by defraying expenses for interns attending the conference, including staff meals, lodging, registration, and workshop fees.

“The reasons for pursuing such a program are clear,” according to Patrick Rice, IASB field services director. “While advocating for school boards, IASB continues to fulfill its vision by assisting boards in overcoming obstacles to provide a quality education for their communities. Thus, IASB naturally develops partnerships with other educational groups, such as ICPEA.”

Rice maintains that building alliances with educational organizations with similar goals and aspirations increases the Association’s effectiveness. IASB’s partnership with ICPEA, for example, allows for an ongoing relationship with the professors who instruct future educators and administrators hired by local districts, and serves to strengthen board/superintendent relationships for future school district leaders.

Retired Associate Executive Director of Communications and Production Services Jim Russell, who played a central role in creating the program, agrees and says he hopes IASB will continue it for many years. “I believe the time of IASB staff and the billable expense to Conference has been well worthwhile,” Russell said.   He says the expenses associated with the program are quite modest, most of them consisting of waived fees and costs for interns attending the Conference.

For more information about the program, contact Kara Kienzler, associate executive director for communications and production services, at