Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Words that began with the letter E rang out in Southland College Prep’s Fieldhouse during a recent rousing celebration to honor Dr. Shernita Mays, principal of Matteson District 162’s Illinois School. The students at the Park Forest school on Illinois Street earned ISBE exemplary designation. Much credit for this goes to Dr. Mays.
“We’re gathered to honor an educator whose experience, energy, and focus on excellence has brought to her school the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) highest designation—exemplary,” announced Dr. Blondean Y. Davis, superintendent of Matteson District 162.
Parents and More Cheer
Parents, students, civic leaders, District school board members, fellow principals, friends, family, and the entire staff of the Illinois School were enthusiastic in their praise of Dr. Mays’ accomplishments for the K-8 school, which she has led for the past four years.
An experienced educator for 36 years, Dr. Mays has taught in the public and private sectors. In her career, she served at the elementary, high school, and university levels. She has served as a teacher, assistant, associate principal, and principal of several schools.
Dr. Mays earned a bachelor of science degree in education at Eastern Illinois University. There, she was president of the Black Student Union and president of the Presidential Search Committee. She received a master’s degree in school leadership from Concordia University and a Ph.D. in counseling from Jacksonville Theological School.
Board Members Chime In
Jeffrey Johnson, vice president of the Matteson District 162 Board, put the Illinois School’s honor of ISBE Exemplary Designation in perspective.
“Of the 3,168 public elementary schools in the state of Illinois, only 303, some 10 percent, earned the top designation of exemplary, and of those K-8 schools, 23 are from the Chicago metropolitan area, but only one represented the south suburbs of Chicago—Illinois School,” he said.
Noting that “excellence is the expectation,” in Matteson District 162, Johnson cited many of Dr. Mays’ initiatives. These contribute to the Illinois School’s ability to help its students attain high achievements. Among those Johnson noted is a Book Vending project. That initiative rewards students for good behavior with ‘golden coins’ to acquire books for their home library.
Dr. Mays also encourages her students to participate in numerous community projects, such as the Walk of Hope at a community Cancer Support Center and collecting food and clothing for groups in need, Johnson said.
Local civic leaders, including Illinois State Representative Debbie Meyers-Martin (D. 38th), Richton Park Mayor Rick Reinbold, and Anthony Burton, Administrator of the Village of Matteson, Illinois, presented Dr. Mays with resolutions passed by their respective organizations.
Former Illinois School Principal Acknowledges ISBE Honor
Former longtime Illinois School principal Dr. Carl Cogar, now the District’s Director of Fine Arts, and Brenda Calvin, principal of O. W. Huth School, representing the District’s other four principals, spoke about Dr. Mays’ high energy, innovative approaches to education and her tenacious spirit which helped set the stage for the exemplary designation.
“My passion has always been children. I believe that all children can learn. However, it is important that they all feel safe, loved, and secure,” said Dr. Mays.
“At Illinois School, we make every effort to ensure that learning is explorative, creative, and innovative,” Dr. Mays said.
“I am honored and humbled to serve as principal of the Illinois School. Especially, as it earns the Illinois State Board of Education’s highest designation of exemplary,” Dr. Mays said. “This should be a career goal for every principal. I am grateful to the Illinois School faculty, teachers, kitchen and maintenance staff, families, and most importantly, my students.”
Dr. Mays attributed Illinois School’s success to having a school-wide approach to teaching. This system of teaching and learning involves all staff and parents.
“It’s a culture of high expectations that include work ethics and behavior,” she said.