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Norridge School District 80 promotes Michele Guzik to superintendent – Chicago Tribune

Not unlike a student graduating one grade and moving on to the next level of education, a longtime employee of Norridge School District 80 has ascended to the position of superintendent of schools.

By unanimous vote, the board of education named Michele Guzik to the top post in the district, which covers Norridge and a portion of Harwood Heights.

Starting as a kindergarten teacher in 1994, Guzik rose through the ranks and last year was assistant to interim superintendent Ralph Grimm.

“She earned it, and she certainly deserves it,” School Board President Sam Palazzo said. “The biggest factor to me and the board was that Michele has been here so long and truly understands the community, its values ​​and the people who live here.”

Following her time as a teacher, Guzik was named principal of Giles School in 2015. She then took over as principal of Leigh School through 2021.

“It’s true I’ve worn many hats in this district,” Guzik said. “I look at the job of superintendent as a community position. Our schools are the center of the community, and it’s very important for me to work alongside our community leaders to help the district be as successful as it can be.”

Guzik, who is married and resides in Villa Park, attended DePaul University for her bachelor’s degrees in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She also has earned master’s degrees in Special Education and Educational Leadership as well as an Educational Specialist degree with a superintendent endorsement.

In recent months, Guzik has helped formulate a strategic plan that includes a $100,000 asbestos removal project at both district schools.

“We’re also doing a large plumbing project to replace all the galvanized pipes with copper,” she said. “The HVAC chillers are being replaced and we’re also focusing on general beautification of both schools with some painting and updating furniture.”

Guzik also has helped guide District 80 through past financial difficulties.

“We had some trouble in the past with a budget deficit but we’ve currently pulled out of that and are moving along strongly,” she said. “We have a board policy of 35% fund balance and we are meeting that.”

Fund balance is the percentage of surplus funds above a district’s annual operating budget available for unforeseen financial difficulties.

“The school board put Mrs. Guzik through a formal interview process,” Palazzo said. “We believe she understands the community and the board’s vision, and we entrust her to execute that. She has a contract as superintendent for the next three school years, which started on July 1 and pays $160,000 for this year.”

Although Guzik is excited about educational programming for the coming school year, she said: “Safety is, in my mind, our number one concern. We’re always looking at how we can improve safety within our buildings, and that feeling of safety helps inspire our learners. In today’s world, with what’s going on, we want to make sure that we look at every area of ​​vulnerability so we can always improve.”

Student enrollment is expected to remain around 1,050, Guzik said. That includes about 600 pre-kindergarten through 4th graders at Leigh School and nearly 500 in grades 5 through 8 at Giles School.

In addition to the average class size of 24 students, two new teachers will be added to the 76 currently on staff.

“We’ve received a $324,000 grant for this year through the Illinois State Board of Education that’s enabling District 80 to hire two new support staff members,” Guzik said. “It’s a partnership with West40, which is a group of school districts and co-ops in western Cook County; the Eisenhower Public Library; Midwest PBIS for behavior support and NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.”

Guzik said a second ISBE grant will be used for new after-school activities.

“We’ll be partnering with the Norridge Park District for some fun things like robotics classes, chess and a new program that combines dance, acting and singing rolled into one,” she said. “We’ve seen a great success and interest with that and it’s nice that we can offer something after school that’s not always a sport.”

The Giles and Leigh principals and leadership teams also have prepared new school improvement plans, Guzik said.

“We’ve been looking at data from before, during and after the pandemic for areas of growth at our schools,” she said. “Our goal is to meet all our students at whatever level of support they might need. Some might need extra support in some areas and some might be ready to excel in others.”

Following the June 21 school board vote, Palazzo warmly congratulated Guzik and said: “We’re entrusting you to lead us where we’ve got to go, to take us where we want to be.”

“It’s been really exciting to teach, to be a principal, to be an assistant superintendent and, ultimately now, superintendent in this district,” Guzik said. “It’s definitely a dream come true for me. District 80 has been and will continue to be my home.”

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