Illinois State Board of Education names new state superintendent of schools

The Illinois State Board of Education has named its 31st state superintendent of education, but not everyone is on board with the selection.


Tony Sanders was named ISBE superintendent on Tuesday after being recommended by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Sanders is superintendent for Elgin schools and will replace State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala.


“Dr. Sanders’ breadth of experience as superintendent of School District U-46 and his entire background have prepared him to take on this role,” Pritzker said in a statement. “His focus on innovation, social-emotional development, and academic excellence make him an extraordinary pick. I can think of no better person to lead the Illinois State Board of Education as we continue to invest in, support, and elevate our students and educators.”


Shannon Adcock, president of Awake Illinois, a nonprofit organization focused on parents’ rights in public education, said when looking at Sanders’ history, the state should have gone in another direction with the hire.


“The proficiency rates of U-46 are alarming. They are disastrous,” Adcock told The Center Square. “The high schools have a majority of the students who are not proficient at math, reading or science.”


Adcock also said Pritzker recommending Sanders for the position was a move that had more to do with politics than schooling.


“My heart is really breaking for the students of this state given Governor Pritzker’s selection,” Adcock said. “This superintendent is more reflective of the governor’s politics than of leadership that is truly empowering students to reach their greatest potential.”


Adcock said someone who is not a “yes man” to the governor should have been selected.


“We see that Governor Pritzker chose someone who best toed the party line of the governor during the last two years,” Adcock said. “Governor Pritzker appears to be rewarding someone who upheld the [mask] mandate best. This superintendent continued to mask even after the lawsuits. He was putting students into rooms to lock them for not wearing masks.”


The Illinois Federation of Teachers released a statement supporting the selection.


“As an Illinois superintendent with a strong education background, Dr. Sanders thoroughly understands the challenges facing our students, teachers, and staff,” President Dan Montgomery said in a statement. “His steady leadership during the pandemic ensured that Elgin students and school staff were safe and healthy.”

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