New superintendent in Vernon Hills believes ‘education is a calling’
Nick Brown, the new superintendent of Hawthorn School District 73. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
NAME; Nick Brown
OCCUPATION: Superintendent of Hawthorn School District 73
EXPERIENCE: 21 years in education as a teacher, principal and superintendent in the Indiana school system
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana University; education specialist degree from Indiana University; master’s degree in education from Butler University
WORDS TO LIVE BY: Every student, every day to their fullest potential
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:06AM
VERNON HILLS -- As the new superintendent for Hawthorn School District 73 in Vernon Hills, Nick Brown believes in putting kids first.
Brown, 49, has worked the past 21 years in education in the Indiana schools, starting out working as an elementary teacher in the Speedway and the Avon School systems for several years. He later became a principal for Shelbyville Central Schools and then for the Center Grove School Corporation over the span of seven years. He worked for the Porter Township Schools for seven years as superintendent before starting his new job in Vernon Hills on July 1.
Brown was originally a business major in college and initially started his career in business before deciding to pursue a career in education.
“I wasn’t really fulfilled in business, I truly believe education is a calling. You’re called to serve the children and you’re community. It’s a fun way to help kids fulfill their dreams in the future,” he said.
Brown said he was interested in the Hawthorn District because of the size of the district, its dual language and other programs and its strong focus on students.
“It’s not too big of a district and it’s focused on elementary and middle school education,” he said. “That was very important to me.”
Brown has only been on the job for about a month but has been impressed by the quality of staff and teachers.
“It was very nice to come in and meet people and confirm what I had experienced during the interview process—that it is a warm, caring staff focused on student needs,” he said. “It’s such a compliment to the previous administration on how they selected people at all levels.”
Brown replaces Dr. Susan Zook, who retired from the district in June after 20 years.
Brown said he does not plan to make major changes to district programs but to improve what the district already offers.
“What we’ve been doing is very good,” he said. “I just want to be part of a team to make it better.”
One area of focus in the future will be technology. Brown said the district will be upgrading some of its existing computer hardware and software in the future and he wants to make sure that the new technology aligns best with student needs.
Another challenge will face moving forward is the financial condition of the district. With growing enrollment and lack of new revenue, the district has been forced to make budget and staff cuts over the last few years.
Brown said he wants to look at ways to reduce expenses where possible without impacting the quality of education.
Tim Shanahan, president of the Hawthorn District 73 school board, said Brown was selected from about 70 applicants for the position after an extensive search. Shanahan said the three finalists not only met with the board but also met with teachers, parents and administrators and Brown was the overwhelming choice for the job.
“One of the main reason we hired him was his focus on doing everything he can to help the kids and educate them,” he said.
Although Brown has only been with the district for a month, he has “hit the ground running,” according to Shanahan. Brown has a three-year contract with the district and will make $188,000 the first year, he said.
Brown said he plans to meet with parents and staff throughout the year and will visit the schools on a regular basis.
“I like to go visit the schools and see what’s going on in the classroom,” he said. “I feel it’s important to stay connected to the staff and the students.”