By Steve Robinson | September 9, 2019 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Citing his and his wife’s desires to locate closer to a daughter and her husband who just had a first child, Unit 5 Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel announced that he will be leaving the district at the end of the current school year which ends June 30, 2020. He made his announcement at a brief news conference Monday afternoon from the School Board’s meeting room at district headquarters. Daniel became Unit 5 Superintendent on July 1, 2014 succeeding Dr. Gary Niehaus, who retired after serving as superintendent for seven years.

Explaining he and his wife, Janet, have just become first-time grandparents who wish to be close by to the child’s family, Daniel told reporters, “I want to share that over the summer, I have respectfully informed the Board of Education that I will be seeking a new superintendent position for the 2020-2021 school year.” As a result, he will be seeking a similar job in the Chicago area.

“This was a difficult decision as Bloomington-Normal was such a wonderful community,” Daniel, a father of four daughters added. “But Jan and I are excited to have more time with our daughters, our son-in-law, and our grandson in the very near future.

“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished in my tenure at Unit 5,” Daniel said. “We’ve enabled career pathways enabling students to graduate from high school with associate’s degrees in high-demand career fields, supporting local businesses and organizations.” He also touted that during his time, the district has been able to provide over $500,000 in tuition-free credits to high school students during the previous school year.

He reminded that during his time at Unit 5, graduation rates in the district increased – from 86.1 percent in 2014 to 92 percent in 2017. He said that higher figure is about where graduation rates remain today. He also led a program to put career counselors in the district’s two high schools to coordinate career readiness with area businesses to give students real world experience.

He also said he was pleased to be part of the negotiation team which brought Rivian Automotive and Brandt Industries to McLean County. “Through these negotiations, business partnerships developed supporting our college and career opportunities for students while meeting future employment needs of local businesses.”

Daniel, 58, is the 12th superintendent to lead Unit 5. School Board members recently approved a 1 percent raise for him, bringing his annual salary to $203,000. Board President Barry Hitchins said the district will work with an Oak Park-based search firm, School Exec Connect, to begin a search for Daniel’s successor. Although Hitchins could not recall the exact amount to be spent on the search, he said “it will be under $30,000.” Plans to approve a contract with School Exec Connect are slated to be part of the Board’s Sept. 25 meeting agenda. Hitchins confirmed School Exec Connect would, in looking for Daniel’s successor, be hired by Unit 5 for a third time. He added the search committee’s goal is to hire a new superintendent who would be hired in time to start at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year which started next July 1.

Daniel closed out the written statement to the media by saying, “It’s important to know I’m not going anywhere now. We have a lot of wonderful work to do in Unit 5.” He added by announcing his decision at this point in the year allows the school board to have “sufficient time to seek my replacement. I look forward to an outstanding school year as it continues to be an honor and privilege to serve the Unit 5 community.”

Prior to the press conference during which Daniel made his announcement, he and Hitchins broke the news of his exit during a brief meeting with administrators from the district’s 17 elementary schools, four junior high schools, and two high schools.

“The Unit 5 Board thanks Dr. Daniel for his leadership, his effort to empower his staff members and his ability to build important relationships with community and business leaders,” stated Hitchins, who sat next to Daniel during the press conference. “The Board will begin the search for a new superintendent immediately.”

“We appreciate Dr. Daniel’s dedication to the students and families of Unit 5,” Hitchins said in a prepared text. Hitchins responded to a reporter’s question that Daniel’s contract with Unit 5 expires July 30 and “this was just the opportune time” for this change to occur.

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