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For Immediate Release
July 25, 2002

Depth of experience marks choice for State Schools Leader

Illinois’ newly appointed State Superintendent of Education brings a wealth of experience to the position, including top leadership positions in three other state education agencies and several local school systems.

“Dr. Robert Schiller brings an impressive mix of knowledge, skills and experience to help Illinois schools and students,” said Ronald J. Gidwitz, chair of the State Board of Education. “He has the proven ability to lead diverse educational systems and produce measurable improvements that help students succeed.”

“In three other states, he has shown that he can work effectively with governors and legislators with widely variant political perspectives to achieve support for schools. We fully expect him to be successful in Illinois using that same proven, nonpartisan approach to meeting the needs of schools and students.”

“Some have suggested that the State Board wait to appoint a Superintendent until a new governor is elected,” Gidwitz said. “Not only is it the Constitutional responsibility of the State Board to select the State Superintendent, is it imperative that we maintain strong, consistent leadership of this most important function. No matter how capable the person who is asked to fill in –and Res Vazquez has done an outstanding job—the absence of designated long-term leadership takes some of the momentum from school improvement efforts. We must aggressively continue to progress in helping students achieve.”

Members of the State Board of Education voted Thursday to appoint Schiller, 55, now the Superintendent, CEO and Chief Financial Officer of the 45,000-student Caddo Parish Public School District in Shreveport, Louisiana. He will assume the Illinois position August 1, 2002.

“I am honored to have been asked by State Board members to join in their efforts to support Illinois schools,” Schiller said. “Illinois has rigorous standards and Illinois schools are well on their way to integrating those standards in their daily activities. I look forward to the challenge of continuing that progress.”

Schiller’s track record includes leadership of the turnaround of the Baltimore City Public Schools. In 1997, he was asked by the Maryland governor, legislature and state board of education to serve as Interim CEO of the 109,000-student system that was being reorganized through a partnership between the city and state. Spearheading a restructuring that established a strong, independent system, Schiller eliminated the $27 million debt and designed the state-approved five-year strategic plan. By law, the Interim CEO could not be hired as the permanent CEO.

Schiller joined the Caddo Parish public schools in 1999 and is credited with raising student achievement to the district’s highest level while also increasing the district’s fund balances to their highest levels. The district now has seven schools designated by the U.S. Education dept. as “Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence” and has the three top-rated schools in the state.

Last spring, the district received an overall Excellent rating from the state.

“This search process allowed us to review the credentials of many highly qualified candidates,” said State Board member Marjorie Branch of Chicago. “We had a virtual ‘United Nations’ of candidates in the diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and geography. After that thorough review, I am confident that we have selected a proven educational leader who will serve well the citizens of Illinois.”

From 1991 to 1996, Schiller was the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Michigan. As Michigan State Superintendent, he also chaired the State Board of Education, the State Community College Board, the Higher Education Assistance Authority, the State Disability Determination Services, and State Rehabilitation Services.

Prior to accepting the Michigan superintendency, he served as Deputy State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Delaware and as Deputy State Superintendent of Education for the state of Louisiana.

For the previous 19 years, Schiller served three school districts in New Jersey as teacher, vice-principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent.

The State Board began the search process last fall after Glenn W. McGee announced that he would not seek an extension of his contract that expired December 31, 2001. Board members conducted focus groups and several meetings throughout the state to get constituents’ input on qualities desired in the position. An executive search firm assisted in locating candidates meeting the criteria and helped guide the process.

More than 30 individuals either applied for or were nominated for the announced opening. Board members conducted interviews with several finalists who best met the criteria for the position. Board members reported that Schiller was selected from a final pool of “outstanding candidates.”

“We began this process with high expectations,” reported Janet Steiner, State Board member from Carlinville and a member of the Search Committee. “Dr. Schiller met each of those high expectations. He brings an outstanding record of accomplishments as a state superintendent, local school superintendent, teacher and principal.”

Schiller earned a B.A. degree in Economics from Upsala College and an M.A. degree in English from the University of Mississippi. He also holds master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

The salary and contract for Schiller is similar to the contract for the last superintendent and includes performance measures in four areas: student performance, systemic academic improvement, leadership and management.


Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777