For Cheryl McIntire, principal at Northeast Elementary Magnet School, today will be bittersweet. McIntire is leaving the east side Danville school that has received global attention and a prestigious national award for its healthy student initiatives and returning to her first love, overseeing Illinois’ adoption program.
“It’s very sad and bittersweet,” she said of retiring early from the school district. “This has been my home and family for the last four-and-a-half years.”
Before joining District 118, McIntire said she spent more than 20 years working with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in a variety of roles including caseworker, supervisor, manager and now administrator.
When McIntire — who originally intended to retire at the end of this school year — was asked to return to the state agency as statewide administrator for all adoption services in Illinois, she said, “It was an opportunity I felt that I couldn’t pass up.”
“The opportunity to go back to oversee the adoption program for the whole state was very appealing to me,” she said, adding that she will be responsible for ensuring children are adopted into safe, loving homes.
“I’ll be meeting a lot of new people, and I’ll be in field offices I’ve never been in before,” she said.
McIntire won’t be leaving Danville, though, and she plans to continue attending school functions, such as the show choir’s chili supper next month.
“I will move to an office on Franklin Street and I will travel, too,” she said.
Northeast, however, will always have a special place in her heart, McIntire said.
“We’ve done so many special things here,” she said, adding that Northeast’s teachers and parents should receive much of the credit for the school’s success.
“I got to work in a building where the teachers are so dedicated to the success of the students, and we know what a difference it makes to have parents involved.
“Anytime I come up with another idea, the teachers are right on board because what we do is good for the kids,” she said.
During her tenure, McIntire added a peer mediation program and a show choir at the elementary school.
“Those are opportunities kids don’t normally get in grade school,” she said.
Perhaps what McIntire will be best remembered for is moving the school’s healthy initiative forward.
In June 2011, Northeast was the first elementary school in the nation to receive a gold award as part of the President Bill Clinton Foundation’s Alliance for a Healthier Generation nationwide project.
The foundation’s goal is to change the nation’s approach to student health and wellness and to empower kids to learn to make healthy lifestyle choices at school and in their home.
The school’s award-winning health and wellness initiatives also were highlighted during two hour-long specials on CNN with health expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta and caught the attention of a French TV crew who came to the school to film.
“She has done a very nice job taking an exceptional school and taking it to the next level,” Superintendent Mark Denman said of McIntire.
“She’s very committed to the philosophy of Northeast, and she started the show choir and peer mediation,” he said. “She has done a very nice job, and we wish her the best.”
McIntire said her new career choice won’t be too different than being a principal.
“You’re making sure you’re meeting all the child’s needs socially and emotionally,” she said.
However, McIntire admits she will miss Northeast’s staff and students.
“I will miss walking in the door and knowing the staff is here doing their best and the direct contact with the kids,” she said.