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Mandrell hired as new Polo school chief

Kelly Mandrell
Kelly Mandrell

Kelly Mandrell’s travels up the education ladder continue, but her commute will be much shorter.

Mandrell, 38, of Polo, was named superintendent of Polo schools during Monday’s board of education meeting by a 5-2 vote. She will replace the retiring Chris Rademacher, 56, on July 1.

Staying home to serve her community was a prime factor in seeking the position, Mandrell said. Her husband, Jon, has been police chief since May, and served in college leadership at Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Murfreesboro and Sauk Valley Community College. They have two daughters, Laynie, a sixth-grader, and Macie, a fourth-grader.

“I’m very excited to continue on the great tradition of the Polo School District,” she said. “It was the right school, and that was the biggest thing. Our interest in the town, having lived here for the past 10 years, it’s just a dream come true.”

Mandrell has been principal at Pearl City Junior-Senior High School for 7 years. Prior to that, she was a counselor at Forreston schools and taught kindergarten at Stillman Valley and Rochelle schools for 1 year each.

Her contract is for 3 years; she will make $120,000 in her first year and no less than that for the next 2 years.

“I look forward to working with the board, all of the staff and everyone in the community,” Mandrell said.

The board began its superintendent search early this summer. Staff, parents, and community members were encouraged to complete an online survey from the Illinois Association of School Boards to assist in the search for Rademacher’s successor.

Interviews to narrow candidates were conducted on Sept. 10 and Oct. 14.

Voting in the affirmative were Yancy Webster, Kellie Call, Mike Ryan, Bob Cassens and Dee Mumford. Dave Bucher and Matt Mekeel voted no.

“She brings a great deal of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to staff, students and our school system,” Cassens said. “[She is] already part of our community by living within the district, has two children attending school in Polo and a husband that is a strong leader in our community.”

Bucher had another candidate in mind.

“It was a long process, and I think Kelly will do a wonderful job,” Bucher said. “I just felt that another candidate would be just as good or perhaps better.”

Rademacher has been in education for 31 years, and superintendent at Polo for 17. He began his career teaching high school shop in Watseka, and moved into administration at Thomson, Carthage and Alexis schools before coming to Polo in 2003.

The Polo Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 30 awarded Rademacher with its 2019 Citizen of the Year, in honor of his personal fundraising efforts for the community, which has tallied more than $26,000 during his two decades in Polo.