MEET OUR PARTNERS AND ASSOCIATES
School Exec Connect consultants can meet the complex needs of education today. School Exec Connect Partners and Associates have exceptional reputations and are regarded as highly knowledgeable about leadership and leaders. We conduct searches for all levels of education executives and consult on a variety of topics related to school improvement, planning, and board governance. We have worked successfully with districts across the nation and bring decades of experience to meet your needs. Please view more details about the services we offer by clicking on “Other Services.”
Our consultants have extensive nation-wide networks that enable them to know personally the finest superintendents and principals throughout the country. Our consultants hold collective memberships in the top state and national educational organizations, teach at colleges and universities throughout the country, are published authors, and have won prestigious educational awards. They are leaders in the field.
Kevin O’Mara, President
Dr. Kevin O’Mara, President of SCHOOL EXEC CONNECT, has been with the firm for six years and has led numerous searches throughout the Midwest. The retired Superintendent of Argo Community High School District, Dr. O’Mara is currently Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at Concordia University Chicago, teaching doctoral students who are also pursuing general administrative and superintendent licensure. Guided by a fundamental belief in the value of collaboration, reflection, and capacity-building, O’Mara teaches new and experienced leaders that their dedication, knowledge, and input directly impact and enrich young lives. Working in public education for thirty years, he served as a teacher, Dean of Students, Principal, and Superintendent.
Dr. O’Mara’s many significant accomplishments include United States State Department Fulbright Foundation candidate stationed to Argentina; Illinois High School Organization President; Illinois Association of School Administrators Board of Directors; St. Ignatius College Prep President’s Medal Awardee; and Rosary College Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Awardee.
Dr. O’Mara has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from Dominican University, a Master’s Degree in Public School Administration from Concordia University Chicago, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Concordia University Chicago. During Dr. O’Mara’s nine years as a school superintendent he served on several state-wide Illinois public education committees, including Governor Pritzker’s Education Transition Committee in 2018-19.
David Negron, Chief Financial Officer
Dr. David Negron, is currently a successful superintendent in a district that serves 5,000 students and is entering his 5th year as a superintendent. Prior to this position he served as a School Principal in three different school districts at both the elementary levels and junior high school levels.He was the Educator of the Year in 2012, a 2007 Education Leadership Award recipient from Northeastern Illinois University. His professional excellence and commitment to student learning was highlighted in the Fall 2016 Centers for School Improvement (CSI) statewide newsletter for his work on continuous improvement, analysis of data and deep implementation of fidelity with school improvement efforts.
Dr. Negron was also an adjunct professor at Concordia University teaching leadership courses to aspiring future leaders and superintendents. He was also recently nominated for the National 2018 Superintendent of the Year by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. He is also a 2018 graduate of the Illinois School of Advanced Leadership program held for superintendents. He also currently serves as a school board member in his own children’s school district. Additionally, he also serves on two committees with the Illinois State Board of Education. Dr. Negron’s wife is also an educator and works as a 2nd grade dual language teacher. He and his wife have three wonderful children.
Kenneth Dragseth, Senior Partner
Ken Dragseth, Ph.D., Senior Partner, School Exec Connect, has been conducting executive searches for school districts since 2005. He is the retired superintendent of the Edina Public Schools (MN) and recently retired Director of Administrative Licensure and Lecturer at the University of Minnesota’s School of Education. He has 48 years of experience in education and has had experience as a principal, curriculum director, assistant superintendent and superintendent in a highly successful metropolitan district that has been recognized nationally for the excellence of its programs.
His honors include: National Superintendent of the year, 2003, American Association of School Administrators; Minnesota Superintendent of the Year, 2002; Executive Educators Top 100 Educators; University of Minnesota College of Education Distinguished Leadership Award; 100 Distinguished Alumni Award and 150 Distinguished Alumni Award (Gustavus Adolphus College).
Ken has conducted local, state and national workshops on a variety of topics including board/superintendent relationships, high school start time, gender bias issues, ethical values, data-based decision-making and leadership skills. He has published numerous articles in national and state journals. Ken has a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College.
Antoinette Johns, Senior Partner
Antoinette Johns Ed.D. is the retired Superintendent of the Brooklyn Center Community School District in Brooklyn Center, MN. She began her administrative career as a coordinator of Services for a District in Michigan. In Minnesota she was the Director of Special Education, and Director of Career and Technical Education for Intermediate District 916. She served her first superintendent role in McGregor, a rural Minnesota district. Toni has served on many state committees and was in the Bush Public Schools Fellows Program for Educational Leaders.
Leadership roles have included President of the Minnesota Administrators of Special Education, Treasurer and President of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. She has also served as the Chair of the Northwest Suburban Integration School District and as Chair of the TIES Executive Committee. TIES is a 38 member consortium of school districts formed to provide innovative technology solutions to administrative functions and learning.
David Clough, Partner
Dave Clough, Ph. D., has conducted school executive searches since 1999. He is the retired superintendent of the Libertyville/Vernon Hills High School District (CHSD 128) in the northern suburbs of Chicago. He has had more than 30 years of administrative experience encompassing all levels of education throughout the Midwest and has served outstanding school districts in Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois.
Dave is well connected to prospective administrative candidates through a comprehensive network but also through holding a number of key leadership positions, including serving as the past President of the Lake County Superintendents Association, President of the Mid American Association of School Superintendents and President of the Superintendents Roundtable of Northern Illinois. He is also an active member of Suburban School Superintendents (SSS), IASA/AASA and the Illinois Association of School Boards. Dave has presented nationally and regionally on topics ranging from administrative competencies to school quality assessments.
Dr. John (Jack) Linehan, Partner
Jack Linehan Ed.D, retired from the Shorewood School District (WI) after 18 years of service–7 as high school principal, the last 11 as superintendent. Earlier, he served as teacher, counselor, coach, activities director, and assistant principal with the Whitefish Bay (WI) schools.
He is currently Director of the Superintendent Development Program and Chair of Doctoral Admissions at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. He has been a consultant to public and private schools throughout the region.
Jack had a parallel career as an Air Force pilot. He was a primary jet instructor pilot on active duty in Oklahoma in the early 1970s and spent 20 years with the Air Force Reserves in Milwaukee as a C-130 pilot and operations officer.
Jack earned his doctorate from Columbia University with a dissertation on the dynamic role of the Superintendency
Mr. Lawrence Lobert, Partner
HR Consultant, Larry Lobert and Associates; retired assistant superintendent, Grosse Pointe Public Schools (MI) and former HR Director, New Trier HS (IL)
Thomas Madden, Partner
Thomas (Tom) Madden, Ed. D., has conducted executive searches for school districts since 1995. He is the retired superintendent of Lemont Township High School District 210 and has experience in public school education at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. He has also taught at the college and university levels in both undergraduate and graduate programs.
Tom has conducted workshops and made presentations at the local, state and national levels on topics of leadership, instructional methodologies, classroom management, goal setting, team-building, strategic planning, and effective communication skills.
Robert Ostlund, Partner
Robert (Bob) Ostlund has been conducting searches with School Exec Connect since 2008, after retiring as Superintendent of the highly respected Wayzata MN Public School District. He served Minnesota schools as a science teacher, Associate Principal, Director of Administrative Services, Headmaster or Superintendent for a total of 42 years. Throughout his career, he was heavily involved in all aspects of human resource administration including negotiations, contract administration, recruitment and evaluation. He was actively involved in professional associations at every level, including serving as President of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. He was selected as the Twin City Metro Area Administrator of the Year in 2008.
Bob earned his BA and BS degrees in chemistry and biology from Bemidji State University, his Master of Science degree in Science Supervision from the University of Virginia, and completed his administrative licensure requirements at the University of Minnesota. He has participated in or led over 35 searches.
David W. Peterson, Partner
David Peterson, M. S., is the retired superintendent of the Northern Suburban Education District (NSSED). NSSED is a special education intermediate district that includes seventeen school districts in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. Dave was a founding partner of School Exec Connect in 2004 and has conducted over 50 searches in Illinois and Michigan. Dave was also co-director of FED ED, a consortium that addresses federal education issues impacting suburban school districts in Illinois. Dave moved to Michigan in 2007 where he leads School Exec Connect’s Michigan search teams.
Dave is a recognized national and state leader in special education. He was President of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education in 2000-02, was appointed to the U.S. Department of Education Federal Interagency Coordinating Council by Secretary of Education Richard Riley, and served on U.S. Senator’s Mark Kirk’s Education Advisory Committee. Dave is also the recipient of numerous awards including IAASE’s David Berto Leadership award. Dave has served as a consultant to districts across the country and has conducted numerous workshops and presentations on topics ranging from alternate models of service to children with special needs to international achievement standards. He has published articles in a number of education journals and several book chapters.
Ms. Diane Robertson, Partner
Diane Robertson has been an educator for 34 years, having served as a teacher, principal, and superintendent. She recently retired after 19 years as the superintendent of Community Unit School District #4 in Mendon, IL. She currently leads the downstate Illinois searches for the firm and serves as a mentor for new and veteran superintendents.
Ms. Robertson has been active at the state level as a member of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), Chair of the IASA Legislative Committee, member of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Unfunded Mandates, and has many times been called upon to serve on committees and testify before the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois General Assembly on critical educational issues. While a superintendent, Ms. Robertson partnered with Pearson to design and implement a full-scale 1:1 learning program at CUSD#4 which has totally transformed the educational experience of students and teachers in this small rural Illinois school district.
Harry Rossi, Partner
Harry P. Rossi, Ed. D., is the co-director of FED ED, a consortium that addresses federal education issues that impact suburban school districts in Illinois. He is the retired superintendent of Northbrook/Glenview School District 30. During his extensive administrative career, he has served at all building level administrative positions and many central office positions. Harry is an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University Chicago where he teaches educational leadership as well as conducts practicum and internship programs. Additionally, he serves on two university boards as well as several state and National boards. He has presented and published at the state, national, and international levels.
Dr. Donald Senti, Partner
Dr. Donald Senti is the Retired superintendent of Clayton School District (MO)
Dr. Gary Zabilka, Partner
Dr. Gary Zabilka, Partner, is the retired superintendent of Morton Grove School District 70 (IL) and the past superintendent of Puffer-Hefty School District 69 in Downers Grove (IL), serving a combined total of 13 years as a superintendent. He is currently a Field Service Director for the Illinois Association of School Administrators, where he is responsible for coaching and mentoring new superintendents, as well as providing Professional Development in leadership for district administrators. He currently teaches educational administration courses for Loyola University, specializing in the areas of leadership and school finance. In 2012, Dr. Zabilka was named an Illinois Distinguished Superintendent.
MEET OUR SENIOR ASSOCIATES
Dr. Gerald Freitag
Site coordinator and instructor, Cardinal Stritch University Educational Leadership Program and retired superintendent, Franklin Public Schools, Franklin (WI)
Dr. Matt Gibson
Retired superintendent, Elmbrook (WI); former superintendent, Stoughton (WI) Fox Point-Bayside (WI), Northlake (WI) and Swallow (WI)
Dr. Craig Larson
Retired superintendent of Rockwood School District in west St. Louis County (MO).
Ms. Patty Phillips
Retired superintendent, North St. Paul/Maplewood/Oakdale (MN)
Dr. John Sawyer III
Retired superintendent, Sandridge School District 172, (IL)
Dr. Miles Turner
Retired Executive Director of Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WI)
MEET OUR ASSOCIATES
Mr. Terry Adams
Retired superintendent, Wentzville (MO)
Dr. Brian Barnhart
Superintendent, Western Springs School District 101 (IL)
Dr. David Benson
Superintendent, Cedar Rapids (IA); former superintendent, Ladue (MO), Blue Valley (KS) and Fort Madison (IA)
Dr. Dan Bertrand
Superintendent, Marengo Community High School District #154, Marengo (IL)
Dr. Dennis Fisher
Retired superintendent, Park Hill School District Kansas City (MO)
Dr. Keith Fuchs
Lead Consultant and Trainer, CESA 6 District Administrator Performance Evaluation System and retired superintendent, Menasha Joint School District (WI)
Dr. Alicia Geddis
Deputy superintendent and chief financial officer, Dolton (IL) School District 149 and superintendent designate, Danville (IL) School District
Dr. Patricia Greco
Superintendent, Menomonee Falls SD (WI) and past superintendent of West Bend Joint School District #1 (WI)
Dr. Harry Durland Griffith
Retired superintendent, Lake Forest Districts 67 (IL) & 115 (IL) and former superintendent, Goose Creek CISD (Houston, TX), Pampa ISD (TX) and Ingram ISD (TX)
Dr. William A. Hamilton
Retired superintendent, Walled Lake Consolidated Schools (MI)
Dr. Bradley Hawk
Assistant clinical professor, Leadership, Education, Psychology and Foundations, Northern Illinois University (IL) and retired superintendent, Central CUSD 301 (IL)
Dr. Jill W. Hawk
Retired superintendent, Crystal Lake Community High School District 155 (IL)
Ms. Paula Hawley
Superintendent, Pikeland CUSD 10, Pittsfield (IL)
Dr. Mary Herrmann
Clinical assistant professor, University of Illinois, former superintendent, Clayton School District (MO) and Barrington School District (IL)
Dr. Jim Horton
Retired Executive Director South West Center (MO), Retired Superintendent Excelsior Springs R-5 (Missouri)
Dr. Sharon Johnson-Shirley
Superintendent, Lake Ridge Schools, Gary (IN)
Mr. Thomas Joynt
Retired superintendent, Green Bay Area Schools (WI)
Dr. Von Mansfield
Superintendent, Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School (IL)
Dr. Keith Marty
Superintendent, Parkway School District, Chesterfield (MO) and retired superintendent, School District of Menomonee Falls (WI)
Mr. Jay McCracken
Superintendent, Putnam County CUSD 535 (IL)
Dr. Donn Mendoza
Assistant superintendent for secondary education/high school principal, Round Lake Area High School (IL)
Dr. Phillip Price
Retired superintendent, Mayfield City Schools (OH), past superintendent, Glencoe School District 35 (IL) and executive director, Midwest Suburban Superintendent’s Association
Dr. Sarah Riss
Retired Superintendent of Webster Groves School District, Webster Groves, MO
Ms. Crystal Ritzenthaler
Retired District Administrator, Baraboo School District (WI)
Ms. Heidi Schmidt
Superintendent, Hortonville District (WI)
Dr. Renée Schuster
Assistant professor, Maryville University (MO) and former superintendent Community Consolidated School District 181, Hinsdale (IL)
Dr. James Shaw
Former superintendent, Menominee Falls (WI)
Dr. Joseph Sheehan
Superintendent, Sheboygan Area School District (WI)
Dr. Timothy Shimp
Superintendent, Yorkville Community Unit School District 115 (IL)
Dr. H. Steve Sprunger
Retired superintendent, East Noble School Corp (IN) and Crown Point Community Schools (IN)
Dr. JoAnn Sternke
Superintendent, Pewaukee School District (WI)
Dr. Jerry Thacker
Superintendent, Penn-Harris-Madison SD (IN)
Dr. David Vick
Retired superintendent, Lake Bluff (IL)
Ms. Carolyn Wierda
Retired superintendent, Bay City Public Schools (MI)
Dr. Jack Williams
Retired associate superintendent, Ritenour School District (MO)
Dr. Eric Witherspoon
Superintendent, Evanston THSD 202 and former superintendent, Des Moines Public Schools (IN)
Mr. Gregory Wright
Retired Superintendent, Posen-Robbins School District, (IL)
Dr. Linda Yonke
Retired superintendent, New Trier School District (IL)