by Brandon LaChance

After Josh DeLong was hired as the new Dwight Superintendent for the next school year, his current role as the dual Superintendent for Gardner-South Wilmington High School and the Braceville Grade School was up for grabs.
Sue Avery, the current Braceville Principal, wasn’t expecting DeLong to leave or for her to receive the Superintendent promotion she accepted on Feb. 21 during a special board meeting.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re leaving us,’ said Avery, who has been the Braceville Principal for the last six years. “But, Josh is from Dwight. He went to school there. His kids go to school in Dwight. He lives there. It makes sense. He’s a great leader. There were great initiatives he implemented while he was here. He did a really great job.
“It was shocking to me because he was only here three years. He asked me if I was going to go for his job. I said, ‘What?’ because it didn’t even dawn on me. I didn’t think in terms of me possibly becoming the Superintendent until he said that.”
Although DeLong didn’t have a say in who his successor was going to be, he knew she would be hard to pass over if she applied.
“I believe she is qualified. Sue will tell you she was a little hesitant when I told her I was taking the position in Dwight,” DeLong said. “I did encourage her to apply. I think she was hesitant because she wasn’t done with her classes yet, but just what I’ve seen from her and her work ethic, she’s one that is heavily involved in the community and the school.
“During the interview process, she really knocked it out of the ballpark.”
Avery, born and raised in Joliet, also received all of her education in Joliet as she went through the public school system, attended Joliet Junior College, and earned a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree and her Superintendent endorsement at the University of St. Francis.
The educator also has the resume to go with her schooling as she was in private preschool for 41/2 years, was a dual preschool director and assistant principal, and has taught many students.
“This is what I’ve been working hard for,” Avery said. “I started with private preschool when I was younger. It really piqued my interest in becoming an educator. I went back to school, got my teaching degree, and I’ve never looked back from public education. I’ve taught at multiple grade levels. Along the way, other leaders have lifted me up along my journey and pointed me in the right direction in the classroom and with administration roles.

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“I had some Superintendents encourage me to get my Superintendent certification. Now, here I am with this new job in front of me. I’m really excited about the dual Superintendent role. I still get to keep one foot in the place that I’ve called home for the last six years and I have the other foot in Gardner. I hope to do great things in both school districts.”
Avery will be at GSW 70 percent of the time and at Braceville 30 percent.
This means she gets to interact with GSW’s three feeder schools in Gardner, South Wilmington and Braceville as she will see each student from the time they’re school age until they graduate high school.
“I think part of a Superintendent’s role is to carry out the board of education’s mission and vision, and to insure principals, teachers, students, and families have the resources they need to be successful,” Avery said. “I see myself as a servant leader as well as shared leadership.
“My intention is to do what the leaders before me did and lift up other leaders. I want to focus on serving the community. I believe this job is about relationship building. The people are what make the schools so great. When people feel valued and appreciated there is nothing they won’t do for you.”
Avery, one of seven children, recognizes her roles as a big sister and little sister as helping her find education as her career; leading her younger siblings showcased leadership qualities; looking up to her older sister Tammy, who is a teacher, gave her insight.
DeLong sees all of Avery’s talent, skill and dedication every time he steps into the Braceville hallways.
Starting July 1, GSW, Braceville and the communities involved will see them, too.
“Through our work relationship and what I know of Sue, she is a really hard worker and very dedicated to her school building,” DeLong said. “For example, Sue is a 10 month employee as the principal. She gets off two months in the summer, but she still shows up every day. She is one that is never gone. She’s never out of the building.
“When I do stop by to talk to Sue, she is never in her office. She is always in a classroom or somewhere in the building mingling with students and teachers.”
The next Braceville Elementary School Principal has not been named yet as the application process is open until March 18.
Brandon LaChance is a journalist with The Paper. He can be reached at 815-876-7941, blachance20@gmail.com, or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.

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