Q&A Scott Wakeley_web
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Back to School 2021: Q&A with Scott Wakeley

Scott Wakeley joined the Homewood-Flossmoor High School administration July 1 as superintendent-elect. He will become superintendent in July 2022. For the next year, he will be learning the culture of H-F and its community and working with staff and residents on major issues dealing with H-F’s future which he defined as “strategic planning, things that go beyond this year; facility planning; making sure structures are in place moving forward into the future.”

“This is not a fixer-upper. This is a well-established, high achieving high school that sends kids to the best and brightest universities in the world and we want to make sure that we’re meeting those needs and the high expectations for all those students, but we also want to make sure that college, career and life-ready is something that’s really important. Not everyone’s going to college. We want to make sure that wherever kids want to go, they’re prepared to do that.”

Scott Wakeley

Wakeley’s answers to Chronicle questions were edited for length.
 
Where were you raised?
I was raised in the Bradley-Bourbonnais area. I graduated from Momence High School.

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Do you have a favorite teacher story?
Mrs. Vauncell Kruse was my rhetoric (English) teacher. I was not very good at diagramming sentences, but I enjoyed telling stories and writing stories and she told me one time, “You don’t always have to know how to build the engine to drive the car. You have a lot of great stories to tell, you have to know how to change the oil, but everything doesn’t have to be perfect for you to get your point across.”

That was kind of a freeing moment that I started to focus on telling the story vs. being more mechanical…I find sometimes it works in the job too when people get so mired in the detail. Let’s take a step back here and look at what exactly do we need to accomplish.

Were you someone who liked school?
I liked school for all the things that went along with school. I enjoyed sports, friends. Sports was a big part of my life. I played football, basketball and baseball, and I played baseball in college. I didn’t really take my studies as serious as I should have until college…For me, sports kept me engaged. It was a means to an end. That’s why (extracurriculars) are so important in school. I think I’m a product of that.

Do you remember your first teaching assignment?
I was a school psychologist, so I was not in the classroom. The first classroom assignment was with the behavior and emotional disorders program at the elementary level, working with some of the most challenging students in the system and I really enjoyed that challenge that came along with that… I was fortunate to be in a lot of different classrooms in my job and could work one-to-one with kids.

Do you feel you were destined for a leadership role?
My dad was a teacher and coach, a principal and superintendent. I grew up in schools. I was always very comfortable in schools; It was a very friendly place… I always wanted to be in education, but I enjoyed psychology and how people learned and motivations and those kinds of attributes of learning. I guess I did see myself having a leadership role. I didn’t aspire to be a superintendent. I don’t even know if I aspired to be a principal when I became a principal. It just kind of happened as I had leadership responsibilities. I just enjoyed them…It just kind of opened doors and people came and said, “Here’s an opportunity. What do you think?” I didn’t seek it out right away, but I’ve enjoyed it.

Can you tell me about your family?
I’m married. My wife Gretchen is a surgical nurse. We have three adult children, two girls and a boy. My daughter Emily lives in Texas. My daughter Abigail is finishing a teaching degree at Olivet Nazarene University, and my son Jake is a 2nd lieutenant with the U.S. Army.
 
Are you good with technology?
I will admit I never used Zoom until I (had to) and now I use it every day. Right when things closed down (at the start of the pandemic) was the first time I used Zoom.  I teach at the University of St. Francis in the educational leadership doctoral program, and my courses had to be virtual and I had to manage teaching adult students (seeing them) in the (screen) boxes, but now I teach them in person.

Were you familiar with H-F before you took this job?
My kids played sports in high school, so I’d been here several times for games, but I never walked through the building. Just the other day I was down by the TV studio, and that’s really one of the greatest blessings I’ve seen; just in opportunities and things (offered at H-F). I just marvel at the alumni of the Viking TV and radio station.

(Alumnus) Jason Benetti (White Sox play-by-play announcer) was my favorite person before this job even became open. I hope to meet him some day. And I’m a diehard White Sox fan. I watch (Sox games) almost every night.

Before there was an Aurelio’s in Bourbonnais, we had to come here (to Homewood), and I’m a big pizza guy. I always knew where that was, before I knew where H-F was.

What’s the last book you read?
“Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools” by Glenn E. Singleton, “The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life” by Shawn Achor and “Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations.

“Whole Hearts” by Brené Brown is a fantastic book. I’ve become an avid fan of Audible (recorded books).

Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy playing golf and I’m a runner. I’m planning on running the Chicago Marathon and running in (Flossmoor’s) Hidden Gem. (Today I was) up at 4:30 a.m. and ran six miles, and I’m here (at H-F) by 6:30 a.m. I started running long-distance when I turned 50. (He’s now 53.) I’ve always kind of been a goal-oriented person and my wife helped me, just because it’s the right thing to do. I’m not going to win, but it’s me vs. the clock trying to do better than last time.

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