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Western Illinois University alumnus Thomas Bertrand, superintendent of Rochester Community Unit District 3A, was recently named the 2015 Illinois Superintendent of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA).
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WIU Alum Named IL Superintendent of the Year

December 3, 2014


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MACOMB, IL — Western Illinois University alumnus Thomas Bertrand, superintendent of Rochester Community Unit District 3A, was recently named the 2015 Illinois Superintendent of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA).

A Quincy (IL) native, Bertrand earned his master's degree in educational administration from Western in 1990. He has been an educator for 28 years—including serving as a teacher, coach, principal and assistant superintendent before becoming superintendent in Rochester in 2002. He noted it is a "great feeling" to be recognized by his peers.

"It's a very humbling experience, and in some ways, I'm a little uncomfortable because I know how hard many of my colleagues work and the great work they do in their school districts," he said, "I look at this as recognition for our schools and our community. Our board, staff and our teachers are all marching to the same beat."

During the time Bertrand attended Western, he was living in Quincy and teaching at Mendon Unity High School (Mendon, IL).

"I made the 90-minute commute two times per week," he said. "I recall that most of the professors, specifically Don Hahn and Bob Hall, were genuinely nice people, as well as solid instructors who emphasized a practical approach to school administration."

Bertrand is only the fifth superintendent in Rochester since 1936, which he noted "speaks volumes about the community support for our schools."

According to a IASA press release, Bertrand's nominators cited several major accomplishments in his 13-year tenure as superintendent in Rochester, including:

  • leading Rochester as a pioneer in the "One-to-One" computer world to develop and implement a district-wide digital conversion for students in grades 4-12, as well as completely overhauling the district's technology infrastructure to ensure wi-fi access for all students and staff—including on school buses to allow students in extracurricular activities to do homework on long bus trips;
  • redesigning the district's professional development program for teachers and administrators to include well-differentiated tracks for professional development;
  • directing the effort to develop a state and nationally acclaimed K-12 bullying prevention program;
  • leading Rochester to become the first school district in Illinois to utilize Overgrad, a free web-based tracking system that allows students, parents and staff to objectively measure college and career readiness;
  • facilitating dual-credit classes with Lincoln Land Community College;
  • actively leading the design and development of multi-stage construction projects that combined for a new campus. He has been part of five successful building referendums; and
  • leading the feasibility study that propelled Rochester to withdraw from a special education cooperative in order to administer its own special education program, with positive results.

According to Bertrand, his most important guiding goal has been to develop a culture of "kids first, high expectations and continuous improvement" in the K-12 district of about 2,400 students.

According to the State Interactive Report Card, Rochester students regularly outperform the state average by a wide margin and also have been high achievers in sports, music and the arts.

In his nomination letter, Rochester School Board President Randy Hawkins noted that Bertrand "successfully transformed what could be termed a 'small-town' school into a shining example of success in all facets of public education…and he is a pillar of community involvement."

Bertrand was raised in Quincy and earned his undergraduate degree from Quincy College and his Ph.D. from Illinois State University. He credited his father, Harold, who worked in the Ford tractor division for 42 years, and his mother, Marilyn, who worked in a school cafeteria for 25 years, with instilling in him "an appreciation for education and a work ethic."

"Tom Bertrand is an educator who has dedicated his career to what public education is really about: kids," IASA Executive Director Brent Clark noted. "His work as the superintendent in Rochester is a testament to that, and he is most deserving to be named Illinois Superintendent of the Year."

Bertrand was presented with the award in late November during the Joint Annual Conference in Chicago co-sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO) and the IASA.

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
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