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November 2017 Member Spotlight - Dr. Charles Johns

Dr. Charles Johns
Superintendent, West Chicago Elementary District 33, West Chicago, Illinois 

Career Highlights & Education:
 While it doesn’t seem that long ago, I began my career as a high school English teacher and debate coach 28 years ago. With great coaching and mentoring, I was able to grow in my role as an educator, become a dean, associate principal, principal, assistant principal and a superintendent. I have served in a high school district, unit district and, currently, in an elementary district. The notion “that leaders are measured by the leaders he or she develops” has resonated for me and drives me in my work. With this in mind, I have focused most of my energy on creating powerful teams that successfully educate students as well as develop the leadership capacities of the team members.

What I like best about my job: I enjoy working with teams to develop systems for continual improvement. By adopting a mindset based on “continual quality improvement” we are able to view challenges with a positive approach and turn Collins’ flywheel. Seeing the early, and often slow, evolutions of the flywheel is exhilarating.

The best advice I’ve ever received:
 Everyone matters. Some of the most valuable information that you receive will come from sources that surprise you.

Advice you would give a new superintendent or school system leader:
 The superintendent should be the #1 learner in the district. Treat your new position as the beginning of a doctorate. Treat it as if you were a sociologist. Start learning about your district, its culture and history, the people and its environment before you even accept the position. Collect and triangulate data. Develop and test hypotheses. Then, bring stakeholders to your discoveries so that there is a common understanding of what you have learned. Do not be in a rush to provide the solutions. Instead, co-create the solutions with those from whom you learned.

If I ever snuck out of work early, I would probably be found:
 One of two places, on my bike or swinging a golf club. I find that both activities allow me to truly focus on just one thing at a time. I see both activities as restorative. In a counterintuitive way - I feel like I’m a better father, husband and leader when I have a regular schedule of riding and golfing. Clearing my head, being mindful, allows me to be more “present” when I get back.

People would be surprised to know:
 I am a passionate bicycle racing fan. I take World Cup level passion to my annual following of the Tour de France (and about 30 other races).

One thing I wish more people knew about ALAS:
 I repeat it all the time...I truly believe that ALAS exudes a sense of “familia” that is so vital to all of us in our really demanding roles. It is re-fortifying to me. When I come to ALAS events, I feel like we are coming together for a common purpose and we cheer on each other in our various pursuits. The collegiality and support of ALAS members is unparalleled by any other professional organization.