Widdop earns top ROE spot

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

ROCK ISLAND — Jim Widdop was sworn in Wednesday, July 1, 2009 as Rock Island County Regional Superintendent of Schools by Rock Island City Clerk   Dick Leibowitz. Widdop has been serving as an assistant superintendent for three years at the Regional Education Office.

He replaces Joe Vermeire who retired this week after 18 years at the post. It was truly a press event, with both television and print media present, as well as members of Widdop’s family, his wife Connie, two daughters, Chelsey and Ashley and his parents, Jim and Linda. Of course retiring superintendent Joe Vermeire, who has held the position for the previous 18 years was on hand to pass the torch, and Ill. Representative Pat Verschoore was there as well. He even had a brother and couple of sisters there for the swearing in.

Widdop said he was overwhelmed by everyone present. He talked about how pleased he is with his family and their support and even quoted the well worn phrase “behind every good man is a good woman,” to thank his wife.Widdop is pleased to have two daughters attending college and he talked about some of the decision-making that went on many years ago. “I lived in Oneida and was wondering ‘Should I get involved with administration?’”He said he is really enjoying the administration part of his job.

At one point his parents helped him knock around other options, like taking a good paying job at John Deere or International Harvestor. “I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a coach,” he said.”My parents encouraged me to be whatever I wanted.”

He said he has been fortunate throughout his career. While in Stockton, he was hired as the head basketball coach then ended up as an assistant football coach.Widdop also spent some time in Aledo. In 1998 he taught a year at the high school, teaching health and physical education. He was also the assistant football coach under Cullen Welter. In 1999 he became principal at Aledo High School.

“I took Bill Braden’s place, who was elected superintendent of schools for Mercer Henderson Warren Counties,” he said.

In 2000 he moved further north and spent six years as the junior high principal and transportation director in the Rockridge School District. He held that position until he was hired to be the Rock Island Assistant Superintendent of Schools.

He complimented outgoing superintendent Vermeier. “He’s been a great mentor to me. Joe Vermiere took me under his wings.”

Widdop says he looks forward to serving the students, parents and teachers of Rock Island County.  “As an office we hope to meet the high demands that are placed on the education process into the future. Schools are a great community resource for the advancement of our young people and the Regional Office will work hard to assist our schools in this process”.  

Widdop received his BA and MA from Western Illinois University.  He began his educational career as a health and gym teacher in the Stockton school district in 1987. He also coached football and basketball there.

Widdop says he plans to continue many of the current grant-funded programs administered by the ROE, which range from early childhood to truancy to homelessness to Lights ON for Learning community Learning Centers.  “There are lots of programs offered through the regional office,” he said. “We will hopefully continue to build paths for teachers, administrators and students.”

Widdop has laid out a series of new goals for his first term in office which include: 

• Maintaining a high level of educational services for Rock Island County schools (professional development, workshops)

• Helping schools meet the increased demands of No Child Left Behind

• Work with the community to understand the increased demands on educational systems

• Disseminate information on education legislation, legal issues, cooperative management, research and administration

• Provide information to citizens about state and local programs that will help meet the needs of their children

• Bring together people, concepts and resources to provide educational services to all of Rock Island County

• Act as an advocate for education by providing positive leadership and disseminating information for educators, school districts and the public

Widdop was sworn in by Rock Island County Clerk Dick Leibowitz.  The County Board approved his appointment last month.  Widdop will run in the February primary for the elected office. 

Widdop, 46, has been married to Connie for 20 years and they have two college-aged daughters.