Schuler to leave D214, looks towards national stage


Photo courtesy of Mark Ciske

Kevin Lynch, Editor-in-Chief

After 17 years as the Superintendent of Schools in District 214, Dr. David Schuler will be stepping down in February of 2023. He will be assuming the role of Executive Director and CEO of the American Association of School Administrators, or AASA, an organization that focuses on providing affordable and equitable access to high-quality public education in the U.S. and Canada. 

The interviewing process for the position began in May, according to Schuler, with the official offer being made to him last month. The reason that he will be stepping down in February — rather than at the beginning or end of the school year — is because the previous holder of the position, Paul McCarthy, will be leading the organization’s national convention that month just prior to stepping down. 

Schuler has had a wide variety of experience prior to his time at D214; he began in Wisconsin, where he taught social studies at Waukesha West High School, after which he became the Student Activities and Athletics Director for Franklin Public Schools. He then served as superintendent of Marshall Public Schools and later as superintendent of Stevens Point Area Public School District before finally coming to Illinois and D214 in 2005.

These years of experience prior to coming to the district have given Schuler added perspective on D214’s unique strengths, many of which he says he will miss come February.

“If you have only lived or worked in District 214, it’s really hard to understand how high-quality our students and our staff are … so I’m really going to miss the people,” Schuler said. “ … We’re always challenging each other to do something a little better for kids, and that’s just super special.”

According to Prospect Principal Greg Minter, who has worked with Schuler ever since Schuler started in the district, he has done more for those he has worked with than simply challenging them.

“He’s responsible for a lot of people; if you think about it, there’s 12,000 students [in the district], then their parents, that’s another 24,000 adults; plus he’s responsible to the entire community, to the entire tax base of this area … and that’s a lot weight to carry, but he’s never lost his humanity,” Minter said. “He takes care of people; people don’t know that about him, but he takes good care of people.”

For Schuler, being an advocate for students and staff is one of, if not the most important aspect of his position. During his time as superintendent, he expanded opportunities such as those in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) division and pioneered the “Redefining Ready!” program to further boost student success, believing that it does not lie solely in test scores and college prep classes.

“That’s this huge opportunity we have; we get the help each of you discover your future,” Schuler said. “I’m not saying it’s what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, but if it gets you dreaming beyond high school, man, we win.” 

Schuler’s commitment to student achievement is why, for him, the highlight of every school year is almost always the graduation ceremony at each school.

“When you see students walking across the stage … it’s a really big deal for them, and it unleashes this huge amount of potential for the rest of their lives,” Schuler said. “It’s just really being able to, for me, take pride in seeing students achieve more than what they believed they could achieve when they walked through the doors as a freshman.”

Schuler will have the opportunity to do the same in his new position; he hopes that by working with both lawmakers and fellow educators, he will be able to do his part in preparing teachers and administrators for whatever future challenges they may face. It’s because of these possibilities, Schuler says, that he ultimately decided that the benefits of leaving his longtime position outweighed his desire to stay.

“I love District 214; I feel like it’s home. I feel like the staff is part of my family, and it was a really hard decision to make,” Schuler said. “But I’m now going to have the opportunity to hopefully have a positive impact on public policy across the country, and … the opportunity to move forward public education on even a larger scale is something that I’m incredibly excited about.”

While he will likewise miss Schuler and his leadership, Minter is equally optimistic about the possibility for positive change under a new superintendent with a fresh perspective.

“I’m very excited to work with someone [new] because we can always get better,” Minter said. “ … This district has been here a long time before us and will be here a long time after us, and we just need to be good stewards while we’re here.”

Schuler says that the District 214 school board, the group in charge of the hiring process for the next superintendent, has already begun meeting to discuss what will be done in his absence. He anticipates that they will have outlined a plan to be made public by the end of 2022.

No matter who his successor is, Schuler hopes that they are able to fully appreciate and not take for granted the community present within the district that he served for so long.

“It’s very humbling and a great honor and privilege and opportunity that I don’t take lightly at all,” Schuler said. “ … It’s not lost on me that a small kid from a Central Wisconsin farm town now has the opportunity to lead the national superintendents’ association.”