Longtime Illinois educator Steven Isoye named chair of state board of education

A view of the capitol in Springfield as the sun is setting.
Steven Isoye, a longtime Illinois educator, was named as chair of the Illinois state board of education on Monday. He was sworn in Tuesday afternoon at the state board meeting. (Tetra Images - Henryk Sadura / Getty Images)

The Illinois State Board of Education has a new chairman: Steven Isoye, a science teacher-turned-superintendent from Chicago’s suburbs. 

Isoye was sworn in Tuesday at the board’s monthly meeting, one day after Gov. J.B. Pritzker made the announcement. 

Isoye replaces former chair Darren Reisberg, who left the state board in May to become President of Hartwick College, a small liberal arts college in New York. Reisberg said in his exit interview with Chalkbeat that it will be important for the next board chair to spend time with school leaders, teachers, parents, advocates, and others invested in education to make good policy.

As chair, Isoye will be responsible for overseeing the state’s continued efforts to recover from the pandemic, diversify the teacher workforce, retain educators, and figure out the best way to test students. He will serve for four-year terms and can serve up to two consecutive terms, according to the state board of education.

In a statement, Isoye said he is honored to be appointed.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board and State Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala to foster an academic environment in which every student in the state can be successful,” Isoye said.

Over Isoye’s career, he worked his way from a science teacher to superintendent with roles  at several school districts in the Chicago suburbs. Before becoming a superintendent, he was a principal at Maine East High School in Park Ridge and Warren Township High School in Gurnee. He also served as science department chair at Highland Park High School. 

Prior to his leadership roles, Isoye spent 12 years in the classroom, teaching chemistry, biology, and physical sciences at Highland Park, Deerfield, and Warren Township High Schools, The Latin School of Chicago, and Loyola Academy. 

Isoye was named the Illinois High School Principal of the Year in 2010 and Illinois Teacher of the Year in 1998.

Isoye is “an exceptional educator and person,” Pritzker said in a statement, adding that he is a great fit to lead “the best educational leadership team in America.” 

Isoye most recently served as superintendent of Niles Township High School District 219, but his first superintendent job was at Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200. Colleagues there applauded his appointment. 

“Not only is he an exceptional educator, but he also has a deep commitment to equity and the work of ensuring that race, socioeconomic status, and other social factors are eliminated as predictors of students’ academic achievement and social emotional growth,” Karin Sullivan, executive director of communications at Oak Park and River Forest High School, said in a statement to Chalkbeat.

In addition to being an educator and administrator, Isoye has sat on a number of state boards and committees over his career and holds membership with several state and national associations. He currently sits on two state committees, one focused on tests for students and one on evaluating teacher performance in classrooms.

Brent Clark, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators, said he is looking forward to working with Isoye in his new role.

 “As a recent sitting superintendent, Dr. Isoye understands the issues impacting public school districts across the state of Illinois and will be a great partner in helping address those challenges,” Clark said.

Pritzker’s office said Isoye’s appointment awaits confirmation by the state Senate, which is scheduled to meet in November.

Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering school districts across the state, legislation, special education, and the state board of education. Contact Samantha at ssmylie@chalkbeat.org.

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