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Local

On the record (Kristal LeRette)

With Kristal LeRette, Bureau Valley South principal

Where did you grow up? Streator

Where do you live now? Sheffield

For how long? 6 years

What is your occupation? Bureau Valley South principal

What are previous positions you’ve held in education? Fifth-grade teacher and a junior high math, science and language arts teacher

As principal at BV South, what advantages are there to your position? I work with an amazing group of teachers and staff. We are a team and accomplish a lot each year working together. I also enjoying working with our parents and guardians. They are very understanding and supportive.   

What do you consider to be your biggest challenges? The biggest challenge I feel I have is convincing the Bureau Valley voters that the Bureau Valley South students and teachers deserve a permanent school to call home. Some teachers have moved their classrooms at the end of each school year for the past three years. The uncertainty of where the South teachers and students will be each school year weighs heavily on my heart. Through it all though, everyone is still smiling. Another challenge is the state of Illinois paying the school district the money it owes us. The state continues to issue its rules and mandates to the Illinois schools, but it doesn’t pay.  

Who influenced you to have a career in education? My grandma who was an amazing lady. She was a Sunday school teacher for over 25 years. I enjoyed sitting in her classes and seeing her enthusiasm. I also had a lot of teachers who would let me help them while I was in school. I would have to say I was being molded to be a teacher since first grade.  

What are your thoughts about the state’s financial issues impacting education? I am sad at the entire situation. I often wonder how many of those making decisions about education are really qualified to do so. Do they really understand how a school and its budget work? 

What has the adjustment to modular classrooms been like at BV South this year? The teachers have not missed a beat. They went into the modular classrooms, set up their individual classrooms like any other year and started teaching day one. There is really only one challenge. That is the moving of the students from the modular classrooms to the main building for special classes, lunch and office visits, especially during inclement weather. I wish there was a hallway connecting the two buildings.   

If you could wave a wand and make changes overnight for the district, what would they be?  I would love to have a centralized school district. I know I may make some people upset with that answer, but it is how I feel at this point in time. We have amazing teachers and staff working around the district. Just imagine how great we would be if we were all together, learning and growing from each others’ strengths, gifts and talents. We would be able to share resources, money, skills, etc. Together we are Bureau Valley. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts. I would also like to have a stable budget where we’d know exactly how much money we have each year and actually get that money.  

What do you consider the strengths of Bureau Valley to be: We have a lot of strengths, but there are two strengths that are at the core of our success. Our district leadership consisting of the school board and administration are to be commended for their work and perseverance. Each day we look for ways to become better and better for our students. We look for ways to give our students more, when we are being given less. We respect and support each other through the good times and challenging times. We work as a team. Then, there are the district teachers and staff. They are amazing. They are smiling each and every day, giving our students safety, security, fantastic learning environments, love and care.  

What new programs/courses/extracurricular activities would you like to see added at BV South: Bureau Valley South has a lot of programs and activities for the students. Besides the sports programs, which I am very thankful to have, I enjoy having the after school 21st Century Community Learning Program. This program is a federally funded program organized by Pat Corwin and the Regional Office of Education. The 21st Century Program reinforces the skills taught in the classroom, and gives students cultural enrichment opportunities. I would love to see the robotics club active again, and if I could wish for something new I’d like to see a STEAM club (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics).  

How have you seen education change over the course of your career: Students are expected to know more earlier. I joke around with everyone about how kindergarten use to be half days of stories, letters, numbers, playing and snacks. Now it is a full day with the students reading sentences and books by the end of the year and solving single digit math problems. I’ve also seen a big increase in the number of students with social, emotional and medical needs. Finally, and probably the most frustrating, are the assessments and paperwork needing to be completed each year. 

Would you suggest a career in education to others? Why or why not: We need dedicated, caring teachers. At times it can feel like a thankless job, but teachers will tell you they don’t teach for money or fame. They teach to make a difference. They teach because they love kids. It takes a very special person to be a teacher. So if you are a caring person who will work long hours for little pay in order to mold the future and make a difference, become a teacher. 

In a perfect world, Bureau Valley ___ (fill in the blank): Would not have to rely on anyone for anything. It would have all of the money and resources it needs to be the best it can be.  

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