Interim Rock Island-Milan school superintendent Alan Boucher gave the annual “State of the Schools” address Tuesday at the noon joint meeting of the Rock Island Kiwanis and Rotary clubs at the QC Botanical Center.

He is superintendent just through Dec. 31, 2023, since to maintain his Illinois pension, he has to keep days worked below 120 days per year. Former Moline schools chief Lanty McGuire will be interim district boss in the 2024 spring semester.

Alan Boucher, interim Rock Island-Milan superintendent, gave a “State of the Schools” address Tuesday, Sept. 5 at a joint meeting of the Rock Island Rotary and Kiwanis clubs (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Boucher previously was principal at Arrowhead Youth and Family Services. He served as the superintendent of the Sherrard Community Unit School District from 2015-2022 and was superintendent of the Mercer County School District from 2006-2015.

As an outsider to the Rock Island district (which has 6,161 students), he said Tuesday that he sees “unbelievable community pride” in the schools and the city.

“I see that right away; it’s just obvious,” Boucher said. “I also see the board and staff really, truly love those students and want to do what’s best. They go above and beyond.”

Interim superintendent Alan Boucher welcomed students to the new school year, which began Aug. 3 in Rock Island and Milan. (photo courtesy of RIMSD #41)

The district is also on the move, not just resting on their laurels, but taking many actions to improve not only school buildings, facilities, academics and technology, but student performance and attendance, he said.

“There are new programs being started constantly. There are new construction projects,” Boucher said.

Rock Island High School got an $11-million facelift last school year, including a new entrance, revamping the cafeteria, a new common area for studying and collaborating, a student drop-off and pick-up area and security features.

Among the biggest was recent completion of a new $8.36-million district administration center on 7th Avenue and 20th Street. The building is 35,000 square feet (including a 18,000-square-foot administration office, 6,000-square-foot food production kitchen, and 11,000-square-foot warehouse), and it houses approximately 65 employees.

The average school attendance was 86.4 percent two years ago, and 87.9% last year, still reflecting challenges recovering from COVID remote learning, he said, noting attendance is a priority this year.

District safety manager Charles Butler at the new high school entrance and reception area (photo courtesy of RIMSD #41).

30-plus languages in schools

Students eligible for English Language Learner (ELL) services in the district have increased from 780 last year to over 800 this year – whose primary language at home is not English.

“There are more than 30 languages spoken in the Rock Island-Milan school district,” Boucher said, noting the district the second-most diverse in Illinois and the most diverse in the QC area.

Boucher previously was superintendent of the Sherrard and Mercer County school systems.

“That’s something to be proud of, because our students desperately need to see other traditions, other ways of looking at things,” he said. “It will only give them an advantage, compared to students who don’t come from as diverse a district.”

The district has a K-12 AVID program, that prepares students to go to college, but also focuses on partnering with local companies to provide paid internships for jobs that may not require a four-year college education.

“We have successfully worked with area organizations like John Deere, Crawford, McLaughlin and UnityPoint to provide paid internships for students interested in welding or nursing,” Boucher said.

The Rock Island High School Marching Band played at the Milan Harvest Festival this past weekend. The band will play Rocky’s first home football game this year on Friday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.

Among building improvements, the district added 103 security cameras to schools, bringing the total to 213, he said. The district is also focusing on improving student behavior.

Boucher also praised the Rock Island-Milan Education Foundation its last round of $205,576 in PRIME grants to teachers and educators for the 2023-2024 school year. The 99 grants to 113 educators are the most ever in a single year.

Rock Island High School graduates at 2023 commencement ceremonies at Vibrant Arena at The MARK.

“That’s tremendous – you know what kind of burden that takes off the district,” he said.

Supporting students

Boucher mistakenly stated that today was the first day of the new school year (that was Aug. 3 for Rock Island-Milan schools) and encouraged local fathers to attend the annual Million Father March at Rock Island Academy, 930 14th St.

That event promotes the involvement and influence of men in the lives of students.

The Million Father March at Rock Island Academy will be on Sept. 23, 2023 (hpoto courtesy of RIMSD #41).

It starts Friday, Sept. 23 from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at the school entrance, to greet students with high-fives, cheers and well wishes, and continues inside at 8:30 a.m. with a celebration assembly, including refreshments.

Applications for a permanent superintendent will be accepted through Nov. 3, 2023. The new superintendent will assume duties on or before July 1, 2024.  

School Exec Connect is conducting this search. Interested candidates can apply by visiting this link. For more information on the school district, visit its website HERE.