DIXON – Dixon schools Superintendent Margo Empen is an Illinois Association of School Administrators 2019 Superintendent of Distinction.
Her colleagues in the Northwest Region – 39 school districts in Lee, Whiteside, Ogle, Stevenson, Winnebago and Jo Daviess counties – made the choice, the IASA said in a news release Tuesday.
“I was surprised, honored and humbled to be nominated among great peers we have in the Northwest Division,” Empen said.
Superintendents of Distinction are selected by their peers based on leadership, communication, professionalism and community involvement. Empen is one of 21 superintendents so designated; it puts her in the running for Illinois superintendent of the year, then national superintendent of the year, which will be announced in February.
Her peers cited several of Empen’s accomplishments, including creating the Student Worker Assistance Program in 2009, which helps students in need pay athletic fees by working for the district; partnering with Sauk Valley Community College to revive Dixon High’s agriculture program; securing a grant to build a greenhouse at the school; and resurrecting its food science program.
Also cited was Empen’s work with the Dixon Police Department to implement ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate) safety protocols, and how that training was tested on May 16, when senior Matthew A. Milby Jr. opened fire near Lancaster Gym during graduation practice.
Empen is in her 27th year as an educator, all in the Dixon school district, where she has been superintendent for 4 years, assistant superintendent for 10 years, Jefferson Elementary principal for 3 years and a fourth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary for 10 years.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and two master’s degrees in education from Western Illinois University in Macomb.
She and her husband of 11 years, John, have a cat named Cooper.
P.J. Caposey, of Meridian School District in Stillman Valley, and formerly of the Oregon School District, received the distinction last year.