BYRON – The Byron School District welcomes four new administrators this school year, following a process in which more than 100 people applied. Byron School Board members said the number of applicants speaks well of the District’s reputation as a challenging and rewarding place to work.

Three of the four new administrators replace staff members who left the Byron District to accept positions of increased responsibility in other districts.

“It’s always tough to lose good people, but when administrators leave to accept positions with more responsibility or positions in larger districts, it speaks well of the Byron District’s commitment to the professional development of our staff,” Byron School Board member Carol Nauman said. “When three dozen people, and in one case, 69 people apply for a single job opening, it’s clear that Byron’s reputation as a great place to work remains intact, despite our recent financial challenges.”

Board President Doug Floski said the quality of applicants was impressive.

“We had applicants with more than 15 years experience in administration and leadership,” Floski said. “When asked, most said they applied because of Byron’s outstanding reputation; they were with the increase in test scores in the District in the last two years: They felt it shows a strong commitment to reviving Byron’s high standards.”

Byron Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Hammack announced the following:

James Kann has joined the District to serve as Director of Activities and Athletics at Byron High School. Mr. Kann, who was chosen from a field of 36 candidates, is familiar to many people in the District, having taught physical education at BHS for seven years. Mr. Kann has taught in other districts, and most recently served as Dean of Students and Athletic Director at Forreston Junior/Senior High School. Mr. Kann also brings an impressive coaching record to the position of AD.

“Mr. Kann has coached teams to six regional titles, three sectional titles, three state quarterfinal appearances and one state championship,” Dr. Hammack said. “His significant coaching background will enhance his service to the High School’s advisors and coaches.”

Jay Mullens, has been named Principal of Byron High School. Mr. Mullens served as Byron Middle School Principal last year and as BHS Assistant Principal in 2013-14. Prior to joining the Byron District, Mr. Mullens served as Senior High School Principal in the Pearl City School District; he taught social studies and PE at Pecatonica Middle School.

“Mr. Mullens relates well to students, parents, teachers, staff and other administrators,” School Board member Kathi Gehrke said. “He distinguished himself as Assistant Principal at BHS by being a strong advocate for staff and being a creative problem solver when it came to student discipline.”

Michael Mandzen joined the District to serve as Assistant Principal at Byron High School. Mr. Mandzen was chosen from a field of 69 candidates. Prior to joining the Byron District, Mr. Mandzen served as Principal of Forreston Junior/Senior High School; he also served 11 years as Principal of Stillman Valley High School. Mr. Mandzen taught health and PE in the Pecatonica School District for 10 years.

“Mr. Mandzen has a depth of knowledge and experience in curriculum, instruction and assessment,” Nauman said. “He’s also been a leader in improving ACT scores and developing increased Advanced Placement coursework; in addition, he led his mathematics department in aligning coursework and assessments with the Common Core State Standards.”

Zach Ettelbrick has been named Principal of Byron Middle School, where he has served as Assistant Principal since the 2006-07 school year, in addition to fulfilling numerous other leadership roles. Mr. Ettelbrick was chosen from a field of 37 candidates. Prior to joining the Byron District, Mr. Ettelbrick was a principal in the Lockport School District and, for 14 years taught math and social sciences in the North Boone School District.

Dr. Hammack said Mr. Ettelbrick’s focus at BMS has been in staff evaluation, student discipline, leadership and serving as Athletics Coordinator.

“Mr. Ettelbrick’s strong planning and collaborative skills have earned him the admiration of his teachers, staff and other District administrators,” Dr. Hammack said.

Jeremy Keesee joined the District to serve as Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Byron Middle School. Chosen from a field of 32 applicants, Mr. Keesee brings 11 years of teaching experience in elementary school math and middle school math and science. Mr. Keesee served as Principal of Odell Grade School in Odell, and Dean of Students at Marquette Academy Grade School in Ottawa.

“Mr. Keesee has been recognized for his work ethic, his dedication and his knowledge and skill regarding leadership,” Dr. Hammack said. “He has also received commendations for his success in addressing special education issues and curriculum improvement based on the Common Core State Standards.”

Steve Stewart joined the District to serve as Assistant Principal at Mary Morgan Elementary School. Chosen from a field of 34 candidates, Mr. Stewart previously served as Principal of May Elementary School in Rochelle, and as Activities and Athletics Director at Stillman Valley High School. Mr. Stewart formerly taught PE and Health Education in the Monroe Center, Meridian and Malta school districts; he also served as Executive Director of the Big Northern Conference; he was named Class 1A and Athletic Director of the Year in 2012.

“In addition to his experience as a principal and a teacher, Mr. Stewart has been recognized for his work as Project Director for a U.S Department of Education grant,” Dr. Hammack said. “Mr. Stewart also has experience in the advancement of student learning through a professional learning community model.”

School Board members said Byron’s administrative team is well-positioned for the challenges the District will face in the next few years.

“Like virtually every District in the state, Byron faces financial challenges, as well as employment issues that relate to dramatically declining enrollment,” Floski said. “Byron’s issues are compounded by the precipitous drop in the value of the Exelon nuclear facility earlier this year.

“Even with those issues, parents have every reason to be optimistic about the direction of the District: We’ve experienced a significant rise in test scores and, with a strong administrative team in place, we expect to see continued progress in staff development and student achievement.”

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