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EM superintendent willing to sacrifice his job for kids
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood/jgreenwood@qconline.com
East Moline school superintendent Kristin Humphries has held the post since the fall of 2010.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood/jgreenwood@qconline.com
East Moline school superintendent Kristin Humphries has held the post since the fall of 2010.
Kristin Humphries likes to say that he works for kids.

Superintendent of the East Moline School District, Mr. Humphries said that, when he's having a challenging day, all he has to do is walk through one of East Moline's elementary schools, and his mood is instantly lifted.

"I can go to Wells (Elementary) right now, walk down the hall, and get 10 to 15 hugs, unsolicited. They're amazing kids; we're fortunate," he said with a smile. "Who else gets to say they work with and for kids every day? Those of us who work here, we're lucky. I don't care if you're a bus driver, a secretary, a custodian -- we're all lucky to work for kids."

Mr. Humphries said his district's teaching staff and the community it serves both are focused on children and what is best for them.

"When you come together for something as important as that, it makes everything worthwhile. What is most important is what's happening between a teacher and a student," he said.

Mr. Humphries speaks from experience. It was a teacher who influenced him to go into education. He said Bob Miller, a seventh-grade teacher at Walcott Intermediate School, made learning fun.

"He showed he could be compassionate. I knew someday I wanted to have that impact," he said. "In seventh grade, it's nice to know what you want to do for the rest of your life."

He added that his mother, who is a third-grade teacher at Davenport's Garfield Elementary School, also helped sway his choice of career.

After graduating from the University of Northern Iowa, Mr. Humphries came full circle and scored his first job interview -- with Mr. Miller, his former teacher and role model. The job went to someone else, but he wasn't discouraged.

Eager to start teaching, he made it a habit to show up regularly at local schools and speak with the principals. His persistence paid off when he got three job offers in one day in 1994. He chose to teach social studies at Smart Intermediate School in Davenport.

"I'm an elementary-trained teacher. It was two days before school started, and I was blessed. People have been very good to me."

After six years at Smart, Mr. Humphries left to become a principal in the Carbon Cliff-Barstow district.

"The two people who taught me how to be a principal were the secretaries out there -- Dee Mitton, of Aldrin Junior High, and Pam Williams, of Apollo Elementary," he said.

Former East Moline superintendent Garry Rudish lured Mr. Humphries away after just two years to be principal of Hillcrest Elementary, "and I've been in East Moline ever since," said Mr. Humphries.

After three years at Hillcrest, he moved on to become principal of Wells Elementary, where he stayed for four years. Next came an offer to be the chief financial officer for the district.

Now in his fourth year as superintendent, Mr. Humphries said he never has had a boss he didn't respect and his passion for good education remains strong.

"I've never worked in a place in my life, ever, that's been so focused on our kids. I love this district! I love my job. I've never had a better job in my life," he said.

He loves his job, but he'd be willing to sacrifice it for the sake of consolidation. He is pushing for his district to merge into one with United Township, Silvis and Colona.

The move would be historic by state standards, considering Hampton and Carbon Cliff-Barstow have opted out of consolidation. State law changed in 2008, allowing hybrid districts to form. Prior to that, consolidation with elementary districts that feed into one high school had to be an all-or-nothing venture.

If a consolidation referendum makes it onto ballots in November and voters approve some form of a merger, only one superintendent would be needed, and Mr. Humphries might be out of a job.

"I don't know what the future holds, but I do believe this is the right move. My board of education believes the same as I do, but it's up to the voters," he said. "Next November we might be reconfigured, and this job might not exist in two years, but I do believe this is the right thing for kids, and that's why I'm not afraid to recommend it.

"If you do what's right for kids, you'll always land on your feet. My job isn't just 'tomorrow.'
I have to keep an eye on the next 20 years and think ahead."

Meanwhile, Mr. Humphries is focusing on challenges facing the district, such as a decrease in state funding and the need to be creative when programs are eliminated because of budget cuts.

"Unfortunately, it's not going to end anytime soon, so we have to be inventive with what we do to protect those programs for our students," he said.

He said testing also has been a challenge. Last year, the state changed the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) two months before the test was administered, which hurt the district's ability to prepare students for it.

"Ultimately, a district has to decide what's important for its students to know to be successful in this world. I'm a big believer in local control, but it's becoming less and less. It's hard to continue chasing the mandates the state of Illinois puts on us locally," Mr. Humphries said.

When he's not busy running a district with one middle and four elementary schools, Mr. Humphries spends time with his wife of 22 years and his two children, who are in sixth and eighth grade and active in sports.

An avid runner, he starts his days at 5 a.m. with a five-mile run. He's completed three marathons; he ran the Chicago Marathon twice and the Quad Cities Marathon in its inaugural year of 2003. His dream is to run the Boston Marathon someday.

It is clear he carries that energy and enthusiasm into the office with him. He gives out monthly awards recognizing employees in the district who "go above and beyond for our students."

"I am truly a lucky guy; I get to work with some amazing people for the kids of our community," Mr. Humphries said. "It doesn't get any better than that."





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