Small in Numbers, Big on Impact
Lake Bluff's new superintendent sees similarities to her current district.
Everything about Jean Sophie’s background suggested bigger was better.
Lake Bluff School District 65's recently hired superintendent grew up in Palatine, attending Palatine High School. She returned to her roots to teach at Palatine High School, served as assistant principal and principal at the junior high level, then as assistant superintendent in Palatine Community Consolidated School District 15.
But in the last four years as superintendent in Westchester District 92 ½, Sophie has found smaller school districts create big opportunities as well.
“Small districts definitely appeal to me,” said Sophie, who takes over in Lake Bluff on July 1. “It’s easier to develop a relationship to do what’s best for kids. You can make a bigger impact in a smaller district.”
Westchester district has 1,290 students and three sites - a primary (kindergarten through second), intermediate (third through fifth) and middle school (sixth through eighth). She will come to Lake Bluff to oversee an elementary and middle school with a combined enrollment of just over 900 students.
Lake Bluff also reminds her of the district her children grew up in Barrington, where education is a priority with support from the community.
“District 65 offers many opportunities to meet the needs of all children,” said Sophie, who has lived in Barrington for 22 years. “They are outstanding academically, and offer programs like fine arts, sports, and have a high-achieving staff.”
Sophie is in the process of crafting a transitional plan in her current position that will allow her to spend time in Lake Bluff getting to know staff, students and parents.
“I look forward to getting to know the district, students and families, who really determine where we are on all the initiatives so we can get to a higher level,” Sophie said.
Sophie expects to find some of the same challenges in Lake Bluff that she will leave in Westchester, but she believes creating partnerships can help tackle financial issues.
“We bought out salt with the village, and because they buy in bulk we saved money,” she said. “We also bought our paper with the village. Lake Bluff is already in partnerships as well and we will continue to look for more and more opportunities like that.”
She will not be the only new superintendent in the area. Lake Forest will welcome Michael Simeck on July 1 as superintendent of Districts 115 and 67.
“He and I have already been in communication,” Sophie said, “and I look forward to developing a strong bond with Lake Forest as it will help both of our districts.”