Once a Tiger, Always a Tiger!

As my tenure as Urbana School District 116’s Superintendent draws to a close, I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve this community.. When Meg and I moved to Urbana-Champaign, 30 years ago this summer, we did not expect to stay past the completion of her master’s degree at the University of Illinois. We also did not expect to fall in love with the community, school district, students, and families. We are proud that both of our children are graduates of Urbana High School, and we are grateful to the educators who challenged and supported them.

My inspiration has always been the students. Increasing opportunities, access, and positive outcomes for all students has been my primary objective. As a district, we have stated for years that “failure, for any student is not an option.”  Urbana School District 116 has been addressing the issue of racial inequities by challenging individual and institutional racial biases and starting to dismantle inequitable policies, practices, and systems. I am proud of the work we have done and the direction in which we are headed.

I look forward to continuing my career in Urbana School District 116. While I was disappointed that the Board of Education did not grant my request for a public hearing regarding my non-renewal as Superintendent. I wish that the larger Urbana community could have heard what was said behind those closed doors. My plan is to continue to serve the students and families of Urbana School District 116 in the role to which I was assigned by Human Resources: Restorative “U” Room Teacher at Urbana High School.

I am proud to have always led with honesty, integrity, and fiscal responsibility. During the last six years, with the support of professional and talented administrators and educators, the gap between White and Black students’ high school graduation rates is now insignificant, and both are now above the Illinois state average. We significantly reduced the number of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions between August of 2015 and December of 2018. We also saw the Education Fund Balance grow from less than $1 Million in 2013 to over $ 5Million in 2018. In my new position, I will be able to directly affect systems and structures that have lead to the racial disparities in student discipline. I have worked hard during my leave to support students and families, and I will continue to push the boards and the school districts in this community to ensure better outcomes for all students regardless of race or any other factor that has traditionally been used to oppress and marginalize. As we move forward, I will continue to ask the Urbana School District 116 Board of Education for complete transparency and accountability. It was truly an honor and a privilege to serve the students, families, educators, and community of Urbana as Superintendent.

Author: Donald D. Owen

Liberation and justice oriented consultant and leadership coach.

2 thoughts on “Once a Tiger, Always a Tiger!”

  1. Glad you will be remaining with the district. Despite disagreeing with some of the administrative decisions during your time as Superintendent, I never questioned your intentions or commitment.

    Would love to see future administrators be given periodic year-long assignments as classroom teachers.

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  2. Hey Don,
    I know you well enough I also know that no one is perfect although we still always try our best.
    I feel that this new position for you is what gods plan is in order for our district to be a true leader for all our children. It takes a special person who truly understands the just call to action we all have been called to represent. It’s not our accomplishments that makes use who we are. It’s About all that we can help along the journey that makes us who we are. You are passionate enough so together we all can be the first school in Illinois who has successfully achieved the once dream that has become the true really that all children can get the best education they truly deserve. Ahh heads up I just should let you know I called out Chicago public schools to be the first in Illinois. So now even more so who’s the best of the best in public schools.

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