School District 91 Superintendent Randolph Tinder announced his retirement last week, after being named president-elect of the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA). Tinder intends to retire at the end of the 2006-2007 school year and said his election to the IASA presidency will benefit the district when it begins to look for a replacement.

IASA is a professional association that provides services and professional development for superintendents, said Tinder.

The organization’s mission is “to support school leaders in the pursuit of educational excellence through continued school improvement.”

Tinder’s election, follows three years as a member of the board of directors for the organization, which as of the end of March, had 1,122 active members, 1,700 if you count retired members.

He will begin his term in the three-person presidential team on July 1.

“It is a three person team with the president being the focus,” Tinder said. Both the president-elect and past president serve as a support network for the current president. His election represents a milestone in Tinder’s career, which began as a teacher, working with students in a small farming community.

In addition, Tinder has served for five years as superintendent for District 91 and has 22 years experience as a superintendent.

He has also worked teaching Latin, health and physical education.

As president-elect, and for next year, Tinder said, he will “be at the beck and call for the president [of IASA] for anything he can’t attend.”

Tinder said the biggest advantage of his presidency for the district will be the networking he will bring to the table, when it is time to find his replacement.

“At the end of this time next year,” he said, “the board will be looking for a new superintendent. As president, every time I make an appearance it will be as president and superintendent of District 91. I think the board will get a larger field of candidates [because of this].”

Tinder plans to retire because, by then, he will be maxed out in his benefits as a teacher, after 38 years of service. Also, “I want to play more golf,” he said.

Before then, however, he still sees a lot more he needs to get done at District 91.

“We’ll be meeting to refresh our goals, but, based on test scores, we have to do some work on math,” he said.

Another focus: technology. “We have been moving into the area of technology, as an assist, but also to communicate with one another,” he said. In the district, Tinder said, teachers are now using computers more and more to supplement instruction.

He also said he will be working on easing the impact of the very diverse and always moving student body.

“The big challenge [however], is staff turnover,” he said. “We’ve had a huge number of staff retire. If you look at the current staff of 100 teachers, close to 70 weren’t here five years ago and only one of six administrators was here before me.”

The staff turnover, he said, makes a big difference and brings a lot of change to the district.

As with many other districts, Tinder said, he is also concerned with testing requirements.  This year, schools are required to have 40 percent of all students pass the state exams, next year it goes up to 47.5 percent.

“As the bar is raised for testing requirements and testing results, it is going to be difficult to keep our heads above the line,” he said.

Currently, the way the system is set up, all groups must pass the test, regardless of the circumstances, such as number of students receiving special education.

“Everybody should be challenged, and we should be held accountable,” Tinder said. “But the standards are set so it is impossible to be reached.”

The concept of a bell curve, Tinder said, is set up so that a certain portion of the population is going to be above the range, but the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) assumes that by passing a law, all children will be above average.  This makes no sense, he said, because the bell curve depends on having an average.

“What NCLB has said is the entire country will have all kids above average or there will be consequences,” Tinder said. “But the government did not fund the NCLB like they promised and for a lot of subgroups, more money is needed. There is a growing suspicion that the whole point of the NCLB is to support the voucher program. Ultimately, public schools will be for the poor and minorities.”

Despite the challenges ahead, Tinder said, much has been accomplished, such as reducing class sizes and providing a learning environment in the schools where kids can be successful.

“Our teachers do a great job at knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each individual child,” he said.

In the schools, he explained, teaching is concentrated on learning centers, where learning goes on in small groups.

“Some of it is cooperative learning,” he said. “You just don’t see the kind of education people in their 50’s saw. And computers have opened up a whole world of information. The tendency now is to write one paper with thousands of sources.”

At District 91, he added, gifted students don’t always jump ahead, instead “we use our gifted teachers to differentiate instruction for students who are academically gifted. We have two full-time teachers to work with kids who need to be challenged more.”

Tinder will serve as the president-elect for the 2005-2006 school year. Following that he will move on to become president the next year, and a past-president, the year after that.