Superintendency alums look back fondly on NIU preparation, forward to new roles

Matt Barbini
Matt Barbini

Charlie Kyle and Matt Barbini, alums of NIU’s various Educational Administration programs, are celebrating new professional milestones.

Kyle, who completed his Ed.D. in 2017, his Ed.S in 2004 and his M.S.Ed. in 2001, was named in 2018 as the assistant superintendent of Administrative Services in Community Unit School District 200.

Located in DuPage County, the district primarily serves Wheaton and Warrenville as well as portions of Carol Stream, Winfield, West Chicago and adjacent unincorporated areas.

Barbini, meanwhile, is set to become superintendent of Libertyville Elementary School District 70.

The deputy superintendent in Palatine Township Elementary District 15 for the past four years, who earned his M.S.Ed. in 2001 and his Ed.D. in 2014, considers himself a “Huskie through and through.”

“A personal and professional goal of mine has been to serve kids and families. That’s why I came into education. I wanted to give back and help kids,” Barbini says. “As I entered the profession, and my experience grew, so did my interest in impacting more kids on a larger scale, and that’s what brought me to thinking about, and ultimately enrolling in, a graduate program.”

Serving as executive director of Student Services at Valley View School District 365 only stoked that ambition.

“I’m thinking, ‘Hey this is great! I’m able to positively impact kids, families, adults, the organization, etc., and I wanted to do more. I wanted to continue to expand my influence to do right by kids. That’s what led me to the doctoral program,” he says.

NIU’s curriculum stressed “the importance of educational leadership” and provided the kind of authenticity that only current and former superintendents can offer.

“It was a very good blend of research and practice, and it helped me think as an educational leader about action research,” Barbini says, “identifying a problem, and then critically reviewing and analyzing the problem through the lens of research and evidence; and not only exploring the issue but using research to identify ways to address it and move forward for kids and the grownups who serve them.”

Charlie Kyle
Charlie Kyle

For Kyle, who began his new role eight months ago, the courses he took in the principal prep program “got me excited about going to the next step to get my doctorate.”

“What I loved about the cohort at NIU was that it was diverse – females, males, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, a really good mix of people,” says Kyle, who previously served as principal of St. Charles East High School. “Those Saturdays we spent engaging with each other, and discussing things, were pretty powerful.”

His responsibilities in District 200 include the oversight of safety; student and staff discipline; both high schools (Wheaton Warrenville South, from which he graduated in 1990 when it was known as Wheaton Central, and Wheaton North); hiring and firing; student handbooks; academic calendars; and Freedom of Information Act requests.

As he finds that “every day is different, every day is busy and there are no two days alike, just like when I was a building principal,” Kyle sees his NIU education in play as he navigates the learning curve needed for an assistant superintendent.

“I just got through a three-hour policy meeting, and I was remembering when we learned about school board policy at NIU,” he says. “You just kind of add that to your understanding.”

One of his NIU textbooks, Bolman and Deal’s “Reframing Organizations,” continues to provide a frequent reference for his leadership questions. The network of professional connections he built here continues to guide him.

Memories of the talented faculty, and how easy it was to reach them and Graduate Program Advisor David Snow, continue to impress him.

“NIU is the best bang for your buck. You get great professors,” Kyle says. “I feel like NIU was very helpful to me, and I’m always going to be a big, big fan.”

So is Barbini.

“The connections I’ve made with the professors are lifelong connections, and I’m thankful for their influence, personally and professionally,” he says. “I know I can call any of them at any time, and they would be glad and happy to help. It was nothing short of a true blessing to be able to work with them and to have them with me throughout the process.”

Fellow members in his cohort, meanwhile, added to the rich conversations that encompassed voices inside and outside and reinforced his notion that “none of us is as smart as all of us.”

He plans to take these philosophies and teachings with him to Libertyville District 70, home to four elementary schools, one middle school and 2,500 students in kindergarten through eighth-grade.

“I really try to look at issues that emerge as opportunities – opportunities to continuously learn, grow and improve, that whole growth mindset,” Barbini says. “It’s best to take a look at these opportunities from as many angles and perspectives as possible because that opens up pathways. It doesn’t close them.”

As he and his wife pack up their house for their move to Libertyville with their 3-year-old twin boys and Goldendoodle, he is eager to get started.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the community – the kids, their parents, their teachers, their administrators, the school board – because it starts with relationships, and that requires a lot of face-time and a lot of listening, learning and reflection,” he says. “I’m really excited to embed myself in that wonderful community. It’s an honor.”

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