Urbana School District #116

Press Release Announcing Changes in Urbana School District 116 Central Office Administration

Urbana – To best serve the mission and the goals of Urbana School District, The Board of Education for Urbana School District 116 announces changes in central office administration.  Pending Board action on December 4, Dr. Preston L. Williams, Jr. will serve as Interim Superintendent assisting the School District in a search for a permanent Superintendent. Also pending Board action, Jean Korder will assist the District as interim Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, and Gayle Jeffries will serve as Interim Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Professional Development.

Dr. Don Owen and Katherine Barbour will remain with the District and will assist with the transitioning of administrative duties for the remainder of the 2018-2019 school term.

These changes in central office administration will in no way lessen the School Board’s unwavering commitment to achieving academic success for all of its students.  Dr. Williams and the incoming administrative team support continuing the work begun by Dr. Owen that is grounded in that commitment. Dr. Williams, Ms. Korder and Ms. Jeffries all have proven records of working collaboratively and effectively with those within the District and the community.

Dr. Preston L. Williams, Jr. previously served as Urbana School District Superintendent from 2007-2013, after successfully serving the District in numerous roles including classroom teacher, Assistant Principal, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, and Deputy Superintendent. His long list of accomplishments in these roles include creating and successfully implementing a recruiting program to attract minority candidates to the Urbana School District, developing and implementing strategies to desegregate elementary schools in compliance with federal guidelines, implementing special education guidelines to lessen the overrepresentation of African American students in certain special education categories, and leading the administration in successfully negotiating contracts and partnering with the Urbana Education Association. After retiring from 30 years working in education, Dr. Williams has assisted public schools, private schools and higher education institutions perform educational leadership searches. This work involves developing profiles for educational organizations, advertising broadly to attract a wide array of candidates, and vetting traditional and non-traditional applicants.

Jean Korder began her 27 years at Urbana School District as a teacher before becoming its Fine Arts Coordinator. She spent her last 16 years in the District as its Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. In that role, Ms. Korder demonstrated strong operating, financial, and collaborative leadership skills facilitating design of curriculum in eight separate content areas and across all grade levels, from pre-k to high school. She also facilitated district-level working groups and implemented district-wide initiatives in all content areas and levels, and designed, facilitated, and managed horizontally and vertically aligned comprehensive assessment systems.

Gayle Jeffries finished an accomplished 35 year career in education, including 27 years in the Urbana School District by serving as its Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources. In that role, Ms. Jeffries provided leadership for principals and other administrators through training, mentorship, evaluation and professional development. She also served as a key negotiator partnering with the Urbana Education Association on working conditions. Prior to her six years as Assistant Superintendent, Ms. Jeffries served as principal of Prairie Elementary School (now Dr. Preston L. Williams, Jr. Elementary School). In her 15 years as principal, Ms. Jeffries provided leadership for a staff of 55 and a school population of 450 students by piloting initiatives related to curriculum in literacy and math instruction. She focused on parent involvement by promoting family math and literacy nights, and enhanced academic growth though student incentives.

The Board of Education for Urbana School District 116 is looking forward to working with Dr. Williams, Ms. Korder, and Ms. Jeffries and will initiate an executive search for the District’s next superintendent in the near future. The Board will solicit the input of District administrators, the Urbana Education Association, staff, students, families and community members in this process.

The Board of Education for Urbana School District 116 will have no further comment on these changes to central office administration until after its executive actions.

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