Tag: Marguerite Key Fellows Program

Marguerite Key Fellows names first class of school principals

key-fellows-2018

Top: Rachel Bednar and Jay Brickman
Middle: Patrick Hardy and Debra Klein
Bottom:Katie Matthews and Chris Tennyson

Six principals from NIU’s service region have been named as the inaugural Marguerite Key Fellows, a new initiative of the NIU College of Education.

The six principals will gather Thursday, June 21 on the DeKalb campus for an intensive leadership retreat to share creative and potentially transformational ideas to “unlock” higher education for underserved populations of students.

Organizers hope that these conversations will not only shepherd such students into college but also prepare them for success there.

The Marguerite Key Fellows Program was proposed by Alan Clemens, an instructor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, and Carolyn Pluim, chair of the department. The program was made possible by a gift Key made to the department with the goal of advancing the principalship across NIU’s service region.

“What we’re hoping to find is real evidence of innovation, energy and ingenuity that’s being brought to the table in service of this very poignant need, and to put additional focus on this innovation, to increase opportunities for students to successfully achieve their college dreams,” says Clemens, research associate and director of the Illinois Post-Secondary Report Card at NIU’s Center for P-20 Engagement.

Carolyn Pluim and Alan Clemens

Carolyn Pluim and Alan Clemens

“There is research that shows – and I personally believe this – that those students across the country who, at this moment are facing the most significant obstacles to college access and college success, are the country’s largest source of growth potential,” he adds. “I can’t see any more noble purpose, or more potentially powerful purpose for the future of our country, than empowering these underserved voices.”

A five-member advisory committee will guide the ongoing framework and rationale of the program as well as the selection, and work, of the fellows.

Fellows need only serve one year, Clemens says, but are always welcome to stay involved.

“The Marguerite Key Fellows Program is a project in line with the vision and passion Marguerite has for supporting the preparation of future educational leaders,” Pluim says. “The program will recognize the great work Illinois principals are doing, and provide them with specialized professional development and growth opportunities.”

Marguerite Key

Marguerite Key

Key graduated in 1944 from Northern Illinois State Teachers College – now known as NIU – with a major in biology and a minor in music. When the Kellogg Foundation funded a program in Illinois to place a health educator on the staff of each state college, she came back to Northern.

She and her husband spent their professional lives in Washington, D.C., where she enjoyed a 40-year career in the Arlington County Schools as director of guidance in a middle school while he worked with the National Education Association.

Widowed in 1995, she returned to DeKalb and became involved in the successful campaign to purchase the Milan Township one-room schoolhouse and to move it to the NIU campus.

As she became more involved in activities and programs in the College of Education, she served on the college’s Development Committee for many years and helped to develop and promote fundraising and volunteer efforts. Her financial gifts enabled the development and implementation of innovative programs in the areas of principal and superintendent preparation.



Chris Tennyson

Chris Tennyson

Chris Tennyson

Chris Tennyson, principal, Fulton High School, Fulton

Nominated by Jon Marshall, VP of Academics and Student Services at Sauk Valley Community College, and River Bend School District Superintendent Darryl Hogue, Tennyson is tirelessly engaged in a partnership between the college and the school district.

Staff from the high school participate in professional development that lays a foundation for better college- and career-planning.

During the 2014-15 school year, Tennyson joined members of his staff and representatives from Sauk Valley at a six-day P-20 Academy, where they created for Project PASS: Partnership Advocating Student Success. It provides rich and meaningful experiences for students as they seek post-secondary options.

He and his staff continue to dedicate time, energy and resources to the partnership; he routinely sends faculty to the quarterly PASS meetings and attends himself when he can.

In 2017, Fulton High School achieved a 100 percent graduation rate. “This goal would not have been accomplished,” his nominators wrote, “without the hard work and dedication of Chris Tennyson.”



Katie Matthews

Katie Matthews

Katie Matthews

Katie Matthews, principal, Grove Avenue Elementary School, Barrington

Nominated by senior leadership of Barrington Community Unit School District 220, Matthews is known as a passionate advocate for all students “through her commitment to connecting with children and families” and ensuring that “all students.”

Grove Elementary, the largest elementary school in the district with more than 550 students, is socioeconomically, racially and ethnically diverse. It also houses the dual-language Spanish immersion program, which draws from students from across the 72-square-mile district.

Embracing those differences, Matthews has created an inclusive culture that includes integrated lunch tables where students of diverse backgrounds make new connections.

She also launched an annual family reading program – One Book, One Grove – to bridge learning from school to home and back.

“The idea was that every member of the school community read the book, uniting them not only in something that everyone is able to talk about, but also with a common theme of Read, Think, Help and Change,” her nominators wrote.

“Connecting learning to the home lives of students and families through curriculum studies has been particularly laudable,” they added. “However, it is merely the beginning of the true social and cultural change that her leadership has fostered.”



Debra Klein

Debra Klein

Debra Klein

Debra Klein, principal, Emerson Elementary School, Wheaton

Nominated by Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District 200 Superintendent Jeff Schuler, Klein is known among her colleagues as a strong advocate for improving student learning.

Demographics at Emerson Elementary School continue to change: students speak 19 different languages; the percentage of students changing schools fluctuates from 5 percent to 14 percent; and the percent of low-income students, including some from a nearby homeless shelter, has risen to 23 percent.

Klein’s creative leadership at Emerson, which was acknowledged in 2015 with a National Blue Ribbon Schools award, urges teachers to think outside the box but to also contemplate the efficacy of their initiative and to generate best practices to share.

“Emerson is a warm and welcome place,” Schuler wrote. “The energy level, reflective nature and willingness to take risks that are apparent in the staff are a reflection of who Ms. Klein is as a leader.”



Patrick Hardy

Patrick Hardy

Patrick Hardy

Patrick Hardy, principal, Proviso East High School, Maywood

Nominated by NIU Vice Provost Anne Birberick and Marilyn Bellert, director of the Northern Illinois Regional P-20 Network, Hardy was hired at Proviso East in 2015 as a “turnaround principal” to counter “decades of mounting challenges related to school culture, climate, organization and academic performance.”

The results so far are impressive.

Hardy led the development of a school transformation plan that has lowered by 77 percent the number of incidents resulting in out-of-school suspension, reduced by 48 percent the number of days of out-of-school suspension and trimmed by 69 percent the number of unique students committing offenses that could result in out-of-school suspension.

Named Principal of the Year for 2017 by the West Cook Regional Office, Hardy is now in the running for Illinois Principal of the Year.



Jay Brickman

Jay Brickman

Jay Brickman

Jay Brickman, principal, Hinckley-Big Rock High School, Hinckley

Nominated by Hinckley-Big Rock Community Unit School District 429 Superintendent Travis L. McGuire, Brickman has proven influential in advancing the goal that all HBRHS graduates are career-ready.

He and his colleagues from across the district embarked on a three-year process to launch the HBR Career Readiness Plan that would support their definition of career-ready graduates as “those who have the skills and motivation to pursue a self-directed goal, adapt to challenges along the way and know the options to obtain their post-secondary career.”

In a 2016 survey of fifth-, eighth- and 12th-graders, 89 percent reported that they have goals related to future career ambitions, 97 percent said they had goals for the next year, 89 percent revealed that they adapt to overcome challenges and 92 percent indicated that they are ready for the next step.

“Throughout this three-year timespan, our district saw this a collective effort, not just a high school effort. While lofty, and still a work in progress, we are seeing our students have more of a focus on their self-identified career pathway,” McGuire wrote. “Mr. Brickman’s insight and input toward making a challenging, yet attainable, career readiness plan was invaluable.”



Rachel Bednar

Rachel Bednar

Rachel Bednar

Rachel Bednar, principal, Edison Middle School, Wheaton

Nominated by Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District 200 Superintendent Jeff Schuler, Rachel Bednar is recognized for placing a high value on health education that has yielded a 92 percent attendance rate at Edison.

She and her staff also are heralded for preparing students academically for college and careers, establishing a culture in which all teachers feel a strong sense of ownership for student mastery of informational text standards.

Her leadership at Edison also helps teachers to discover opportunities for improvement and to grow from them.

“Ms. Bednar has an exemplary process for mentoring new teachers which ensures that all of the academic, physical health and social emotional wellness initiatives which benefit all Edison students continue to be a vital part of the school’s culture,” Schuler wrote. “She understands that teachers, like students, need to know that a leader cares before they care what the leader knows.”



Unlocking potential: LEPF will honor donor Marguerite F. Key with launch of fellows program

Carolyn Pluim and Alan Clemens

Carolyn Pluim and Alan Clemens

When Alan Clemens attended a recent annual conference of the National College Access Network, which works to open the doors of higher education to underserved populations of students, he noticed something missing.

Representatives from colleges and universities were few.

“Higher education was heavily underrepresented,” says Clemens, an instructor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF).

“Some sessions were designed specifically to speak to college retention, but those were more sparsely attended,” he adds. “The primary emphasis being put particularly on college access for these populations was at the high school level.”

At the same time, Carolyn Pluim, acting chair of LEPF, was soliciting ideas from her faculty about the possible creation of a fellowship program.

Dollars were available from the Marguerite F. Key Expendable Fund for the College of Education, but Pluim needed a purpose – a focus – for those who would participate in an annual institute in DeKalb.

“Our department has been blessed by Marguerite’s generosity for a few years now,” Clemens says, “and while the funds were being used effectively to enhance various student programs in the department, Carolyn was looking for something more substantial, something that honored the scope of Marguerite’s commitment.”

Marguerite F. Key

Marguerite F. Key

Clemens proposed a program that would bring together high school principals from across NIU’s service region to share their innovative ideas and best practices for not only shepherding underserved students into college but also preparing them for success there.

Pluim loved the concept.

“The Marguerite F. Key Fellows Program is a project in line with the vision and passion Marguerite has for supporting the preparation of future educational leaders,” Pluim says. “The program will recognize the great work Illinois principals are doing, and provide them with specialized professional development and growth opportunities.”

Nominations will open July 1 for the first class of fellows, who will meet in June of 2018 for a series of workshops and dialogues.

“What we’re hoping to find is real evidence of innovation, energy and ingenuity that’s being brought to the table in service of this very poignant need, and to put additional focus on this innovation, to increase opportunities for students to successfully achieve their college dreams,” Clemens says.

“There is research that shows – and I personally believe this – that those students across the country who, at this moment are facing the most significant obstacles to college access and college success, are the country’s largest source of growth potential,” he adds. “I can’t see any more noble purpose, or more potentially powerful purpose for the future of our country, than empowering these underserved voices.”

A seven-member advisory committee will guide the ongoing framework and rationale of the program as well as the selection, and work, of the fellows.

The advisory committee will consist of representatives of the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, local school districts and the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement.

Fellows need only serve one year, Clemens says, but are always welcome to stay involved.

key-puzzleUndergraduate and graduate students with an interest in college attainment and success, public educational policy or other related issues also can participate, possibly obtaining independent study or internship credit for administration of the program or assistance with the institute.

Students who seize those opportunities will witness a sharing of expertise – the wisdom and work of leading principals in the region – along with the possible births of partnerships or design of grant proposals.

It’s something Clemens says matches current thinking on campus – “President Baker has always been very interested in examining the factors that contribute to student success throughout their P-20 educational experience,” he says – as well as the values of Marguerite F. Key.

Key graduated from Northern Illinois State Teachers College in 1944 with a major in biology and a minor in music. She taught one year, and then earned her master’s degree at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

During most of the next year, she worked in the Illinois Department of Public Health in Springfield as a health educator. When the Kellogg Foundation funded a program in Illinois to place a health educator on the staff of each state college, Key came to Northern.

arlington-public-schoolsAfter she married four years later and moved to Washington, D.C., where her husband worked with the National Education Association, she began a 40-year career in the Arlington Public Schools as director of guidance in a middle school.

In 1995, after the death of her husband, she returned to DeKalb, where she continues to live.

She was on the original committee to place a one-room school on campus, served for 12 years on the Development Committee of the College of Education and has been able to assist 10 non-traditional women in the college in obtaining scholarships through the Philanthropic Educational Organization.