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Urbana Schools Hires Next Superintendent

The Urbana School District has hired Assistant Superintendent Don Owen to serve as its next superintendent, replacing Preston Williams.

On Tuesday night, the District 116 school board quickly accepted Williams' notice to retire next year, and voted unanimously for Owen to take over 18 months from now.

Owen has been with the Urbana School District since 1989, and has served as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction since 2007. He previously worked as a site coordinator at Wiley Elementary's After School Child Care program, taught history at Urbana Middle School, and coordinated grant-based programs in the school district.

In his new contract, Owen will earn $170,000 annually for four years, starting in July 2013.

He explained that the school board approached him about the job a few weeks ago, when Williams announced his plans to retire. Owen said District 116 was looking for consistency in its strategic plan, and someone who knew the community well. He said he has worked closely with Williams, and calls the next year and a half a continuation of that process. Still, Owen acknowledged that there are other obstacles in front of him.

"The current state funding is one of our biggest challenges," he said. "I think the external pressures on public schools are huge, and we've come a long way in the last five years under Dr. Williams' leadership, and even before that under Dr. (Gene) Amberg's. We'll continue to face those challenges, and look for new and innovative solutions."

Williams says Owen made sense, given his long history with the district, and his ability to take on challenges.

"And that's really what a search is about," he said. "You try to find the best fit for the district - for the relationship with the board of education. And I think with Don having been here for a number of years, the board has had an opportunity to see him under some very stressful situations. They've also seen the type of work he's capable of doing, and he's his own man."

Williams says he'll be ready to take on a new challenge in his life in about 17 months, but needs that time to figure out what that challenge will be.

(Photo courtesy of District 116 schools)