Expect to see Bement’s next elementary school principal pretty much everywhere when she takes the reins in July: In district school buildings, at as many athletic contests as possible and volunteering with community groups.
You might even see Christy Sweet behind the wheel of a school bus on occasion.
“My husband (Alex) and I both have our license to drive the school bus, so that’s what I was telling them the other night. If you need to get kids to Cerro Gordo, give me a bus. I can get them there,” said Sweet, who was hired by the school board on Feb. 10.
Multi-tasking will be in her job description at Bement, where Sweet will serve as both prekindergarten through fifth grade principal and district athletic director. Her sports experience runs deep, starting with her high softball team, then as a catcher and first baseman at Kaskaskia College.
She was also an assistant woman’s basketball coach at Kaskaskia College for two years, and continued to coach junior high softball and girls basketball when hired on at her hometown school of West Washington County Community Unit School District in Okawville.
Sweet has been an elementary school teacher there for 22 years.
The soon-to-be administrator was one of five applicants interviewed by Bement, and immediately felt comfortable in the community, which with a population of 1,456 is similar to Okawville’s 1,525. She said it will offer her a new challenge while at the same time ensuring a certain comfort level.
“When I went up there and had my first interview with Dr. (Sheila) Greenwood and Mr. (Doug) Kepley, it was like home when I walked out of that interview,” she said.
“It was just not a feeling I was expecting, but there’s a lot to be said for their current administration and the staff that I met, and even the students. They just made you feel right at home; so much that my husband and I drove up two days later and met some of the locals, and popped in a few of the stores, and just felt like this was going to be a good fit for us.
“The size of the town and the community is super similar to where I’m from in Okawville. The size, the rural nature of the community, just that it is also a unit district, which is what I am familiar with. There are lot of similarities between the two. That was a huge plus.”
After graduating from West Washington County High School in 1990, Sweet earned an associates degree from Kaskaskia College in 1992. She went to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 1998, a master’s degree from Rockford University in 2015, and a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership this past December from Eastern Illinois University.
For most of her tenure she has been a first grade instructor, but has also been a Title I reading instructor and spent time in the second grade classroom at West Washington County. Sweet has been a sponsor for Fellowship of Christian Athletes for 18 years.
“I started in the early childhood arena and the love of that just led me to get my elementary (degree), then my masters, then my educational leadership. I’ve never thought about doing anything else.”
Duties of the administrative post at Bement will change when compared to the current setup. Superintendent Sheila Greenwood has also served as elementary school principal during her seven years with the district. Steve Cline has been athletic director and assistant principal for all grade levels.
Greenwood and Cline will both retire at the end of this school year.
The next superintendent will also have assistant principal for the district in their job description.
“It was done to try to make the positions better,” she said. “Being the superintendent and the elementary principal, it’s too much. It’s two full-time jobs. This will allow the next person to have more hands-on with curriculum and staff,” said Greenwood.
Sweet and her family, including husband Alex, plan to move to the school district.