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Joe Ward

May 29, 2019


On Wednesdays, District 25’s Communications Coordinator Adam Harris, catches up with a District 25 retiree. This week he was able to find an administrator who recognized the culture as a major reason why District 25 is a unique place to be!

Joe Ward was the Assistant Superintendent for Personnel & Planning in District 25 for 22 years.


Can you start by telling us the details of your career in District 25?

My name is Joe Ward.  I served as Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Planning for all but two years during my tenure in District 25 from 1980 to 2004.  During those two "off years" I served as Principal at Dryden Elementary School while also heading up Special Education.

Originally hired by Dr. Strong, he emphasized the importance of building positive relationships between and among all District 25 staff.


What is your fondest memory of working in D25?

I do recall one special moment during the time that I worked both as the central office administrator for Special Education and as principal of Dryden Elementary School -- I was given an unsolicited group hug by about two dozen kindergarten students when I entered their classroom.  Of course, I'd have to include the time that the administrative team gave me a 50th birthday cake and its frosting caught fire due to all of the candles (it was hard to live that one down!).


Finish this sentence: “I remember when…”

I remember when…I was a part of one very special moment -- a time when one of our staff members was in need of a life saving liver transplant (a very costly and experimental procedure at that time).  Our insurance carrier refused to underwrite the cost of the procedure, but Dr. Strong went to the Board of Education and asked them to "do the right thing" and pay for the surgery.  To the Board's credit, they agreed to cover the cost of the surgery and save that teacher's life.  When recovered from the successful procedure, she continued to teach for many years.

The decision demonstrated the caring and positive attitude that we, as members of the District 25 family, had for one other.  I believe that special "culture of caring" made District 25 a very special place to work.


What have you been up to since retiring?

For the first few years after my retirement in 2003, I did some consulting for several area school districts in the field of Human Resources.  It was a nice way to "ease into" full retirement.  Since then, I have occupied my time with reading, writing, working on my wife's and my genealogies, an occasional round of golf, woodworking, babysitting grandchildren and volunteer work for our church.  I have also spent a good bit of time volunteering for my Alma Mater -- Yankton College (where I have served as a member of the Board of Trustees for 36 years and its President for the past four years).

Since my retirement, my wife and I have traveled to five different continents, with our most recent trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands in celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary. 

Carol and I also enjoy the benefits of living in a college town.  Our son-in-law is the Associate Head Coach of the University of Florida's women's volleyball team.  We enjoy attending all of the matches, especially when the team makes it to the final four.  Aside from watching all kinds of athletic events, we enjoy the cultural advantages that the University offers.


How’s the fam…?

My wife and I have lived in Gainesville, Florida since 2013.  We moved from Palatine (where we made our home for thirty-three years) to Gainesville, Florida  The fact that all three of our children and seven grandchildren were living in Florida, prompted our move.   We live about three blocks away from our youngest daughter and her family.  Our eldest daughter and her family will be relocating to Memphis, Tennessee this summer, while our son and his family are missionaries in Ethiopia.


Any message to the Arlington Heights community?

Having worked as a teacher and administrator in three different states, I can truthfully say that District 25's culture was unique.  The sense of cooperation working with members of the District 25 family made my tenure there very special.
As the chief negotiator, I always felt that everyone around the table tried to draft an agreement that was in the best interest of the entire district and its students.  Were there contentious moments?  Yes, but we always managed to find common ground which allowed each side to walk away from the table with a positive sense of accomplishment and no hard feelings.
In the end, it was the people that made my 34 years in District 25 so special.  There was a closeness and sense of common purpose among the entire staff that strengthened the District.
Adam Harris