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Brain cancer claims former Sterling schools superintendent

'He helped our district transition ... into new era'

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Wil Booker

STERLING – Wil Booker probably subscribed to the notion that it takes a village to raise a child.

“He believed each and every student was worth working with and for,” said his wife, Mary. “He believed everybody deserved an equal chance.”

Booker, who served as superintendent of the Sterling Public Schools from 2003 to his retirement in 2008, believed collaboration and community support of schools bred results.

“He helped our district transition ... into a new era that really focused on results in student achievement,” Sterling Superintendent Tad Everett said.

Booker died Saturday after battling brain cancer since May 2011. He was 66.

Getting his start as an art teacher, Booker worked in schools throughout northern Illinois. He served as an assistant superintendent in a Nevada school district for 5 years before coming to Sterling.

“I’ve never, ever experienced the kind of community support I’ve experienced here,” he told Sauk Valley Media in 2003. “It makes my job more enjoyable to see the kind of community support given to schools.”

While at the helm in Sterling, Booker implemented budget cuts, held the line on expenses and sought new revenue, so that the district budget was balanced for much of his tenure. Also during his watch, two elementary schools earned special state academic recognition, and one received a national award for excellence.

Booker believed collaboration made for a strong district and got results, said Everett, who served as assistant superintendent for 3 years before taking the reins as superintendent.

“His leadership style was very collaborative,” Everett said. “He liked to communicate with all those involved. He liked shared decision-making.”

Mary Booker said her husband enjoyed his time in Sterling.

“He liked the smaller town, the warm community, and all the willing people who believed in education,” she said.

In addition to his wife of 45 years, survivors include his daughter, Michelle, of Sterling, and his son, Jason, of Chicago.

A celebration of his life will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at McDonald Funeral Home, 505 First Ave. in Sterling.

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