ASHTON – Michael Lindy has been the top administrator for Ashton-Franklin Center schools for only a couple of weeks, but he's been around a little longer than that.
Lindy, 52, was hired by the AFC school board in December to replace the retiring John Zick as the district's superintendent, and officially started work on July 1.
The former Canton High School principal has been involved in the transition phase for nearly 6 months, though, working with Zick to push the district forward as it gets ready to enter the unknown world of school during the pandemic.
Lindy and his staff are working to figure out a way students can learn and teachers can teach come fall in a far from traditional setting that will be dominated by social distancing and masks.
"As detailed as we try to be, there will always be questions, and we want to have plenty of time for our community, parents and students to get back to us with those questions to help make this as easy as possible," Lindy said.
One reason for his early involvement in the process is because this job – leading a small rural district – AFC consists of students from Ashton, Franklin Grove, Lee Center and a piece of Lost Nation – is one he's wanted for a long time; it's what he likes the most.
"I was specifically looking for a smaller district, because you get to be part of the entire educational process more," Lindy said. "You're much more involved in a day-to-day educational process, and you get to know people better.
"What I've learned about myself through over the course a 20-plus-year career is that this is the best fit for me."
Lindy also is familiar with the area, which was part of a sales route in his early adulthood.
Working out what this coming year will look like has taken up lots of desk and computer time for Lindy and other superintendents in the area. As many as two or three webinars a day are devoted to preparing the district, and plans are constantly being amended and updated.
Running a smaller district means he doesn't have a ton of people to work with; on the other hand, he is in direct communication with a majority of the district staff, more so than a boss of a larger district can be, he said.
"I really like the AFC community," Lindy said. "The facilities are in very good condition, its financially secure, and has a terrific staff that is very supportive – a very supportive community and a very supportive school board."
In his short time, he's come to know the community as one that supports its schools and is very patient and trusting with plans – which should be communicated to them "very quickly" once determined "so that we can get parents and guardians as much time as possible to adjust and also contact us with questions," he said.
Lindy, a suburban LaGrange native, was principal in Canton for 3 years, previously was superintendent at El Paso-Gridley, and has experience at Gibson City, Cicero, Romeoville, Bolingbrook and Aurora schools.
He is one of four new area superintendents, along with Kelly Mandrell at Polo, John Petzke at Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico and Kyle Gansen at Erie, who is serving on an interim basis.
"Educators tend to be planners, and we try to make better plans for the future. It makes it a bit challenging when you don't really know what's going to be going on weeks from now, but one of the great things about a small district is that we're flexible and can react quickly," Lindy said.
"At the end of the day, if we're going to provide a great education for the kids, then these are the things that we need to do, and that's our job."