District 126 Executive Administration

Phone: (847) 731-9792

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Dr. Jesse Rodriguez, Superintendent

Dr. Jesse J. Rodríguez is a lifelong educator, bringing over 23 years of experience to the position of Superintendent of Schools. He earned both a Master of Science in Educational Leadership and a doctorate with a focus on leadership, learning, research, and service at Cardinal Stritch University. Prior to accepting the position as Superintendent for Zion-Benton District 126, Dr. Rodriguez served as Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer for Proviso Township High Schools District 209, serving 10 diverse communities.  His other professional experiences include high school teacher, assistant principal, principal, and regional superintendent of 26, K-8 schools and three high schools serving over 26,000 students. He served multiple governing and executive boards as part of his service leadership platform and has been recognized for his contributions to education at the local, state, and national levels. Dr. Rodriguez has established performance standards and expectations based on a clear vision for success while creating professional learning environments that are inclusive, collaborative, focused on results and driven by highly effective instruction.  Dr. Rodriguez resides in the district with his wife and three children.


Phone: (847) 731-9755

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Dr. Matthew Wilkinson, Chief School Business Official

Dr. Wilkinson has been working in the field of education for over 20 years, and joined District 126 in July of 2019.  He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from DePaul University, Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Indianapolis, his Superintendent’s credentials through Northern Illinois University, and his doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of St. Francis.  Prior to joining District 126, Dr. Wilkinson was a Superintendent for six years and a Business Manager/CSBO for fifteen years in three other school districts.  Dr. Wilkinson is a member of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO) and the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO).  As the District’s CSBO, Dr. Wilkinson oversees all business and financial matters, transportation, technology, food service, building and grounds, and capital improvements for District 126.  


Phone: (847) 731-9501

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Dr. Susan Barker, Director of Special Education

Dr. Barker has been working in the field of education for over 25 years. She is currently in her thirteenth year serving as the Director of Special Education for District 126.  She earned an Elementary Teaching Degree from Northern Illinois University and Master's Degree in Special Education from National Louis University. While working as a special education teacher, Dr. Barker earned an Administrative Certificate in Educational Leadership from Concordia University and went on to earn a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from National Louis University. Dr. Barker has a passion for working with animals and Animal Assisted Therapy. She has a licensed therapy dog, "Minnie," who works with her in the District on a regular basis.  Dr. Barker is responsible for the management and oversight of all special education programming and special support services.


Phone: 847-731-9796

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Ms. Cynthia Moreno

Cynthia Moreno has served ZBTHS D126 as the Executive Director of Communications and Talent Management since January of 2021. She earned her Masters in Urban Planning and Policy with a concentration in community development from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Ms. Moreno has over 14 years of experience in education, working at the university, community college, and high school levels. Ms. Moreno has worked closely with Superintendents of Schools, Board of Educations, community/business partners, staff members and administrative teams, to seek out innovation, creativity and resources that support an interactive communication and outreach strategy for the community. She has successfully created a vision and brand, directed public relations programs, and activities with internal and external constituents for several school districts. Her work has earned her two National School Public Relations Association Golden Achievement Awards.


Phone: (847) 731-9794

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Ms. Hassan, Michelle, Executive Director of Academic Excellence

Michelle Hassan began her teaching career at the City Colleges of Chicago and continued in various leadership roles at Westinghouse Career Academy, Manley Career Academy, Chicago International Charter School, American Quality Schools charter school, Maywood District 89, District 150, and District 209.

She is currently a doctoral candidate studying Leadership, Equity & Inquiry at Illinois State University. She is the proud mother of two adult daughters. Her mission is to prepare students for postsecondary education and careers.


Phone: (847) 731-9356

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Mr. Jacob Carlson, Director of Student Services

Mr. Jacob Carlson has served District 126 since 1999 and became the District’s Director of Students Services in July of 2020.  Prior to becoming an administrator, Mr. Carlson spent 18 years in the Social Science classroom while coaching Boys and Girls Volleyball along with Boys Basketball.  He then served four years as the Division Chair of NJROTC, Social Science and World Language. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science from Carthage College and a Master’s Degree in Administrative Leadership from Aurora University.  As the Director of Student Services, Mr. Carlson oversees all matters related to student registration and placement; local and state assessments; guidance, career, and college planning; credit recovery; student records; health services; and coordination of various student interventions.


Phone: (847) 731-9361

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Mr. Jack Niemi , Executive Director of Athletics

Mr. Jack Niemi has served District 126 since 2002 and became the District’s Executive Director of Athletics in June of 2021.  Prior to leading Zee-Bee Athletics, Mr. Jack Niemi served the District as Assistant Principal for 14 years and Dean of Students for 4 years both at Zion-Benton Township High School.  Prior to his years of service at District 126, Mr. Niemi, served the students of Zion as a physical education teacher and coach at Zion Central Middle School.  Mr. Niemi earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Illinois State University in 1991 and his Masters in Educational Leadership from Norther Illinois University in 2001.  As a ZBTHS alumni, Mr. Niemi takes pride in leading our Districts 22 athletic programs to create a positive high school experience for the students of District 126.


Phone: 847-731-9321

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Mr. Bob Worthington, Director of Safety and Attendance

Bob Worthington has served District 126 since 1995 and is currently in his twenty-fifth year of service. His current role in the district is the Director of Safety and Attendance, for the past 21 years. Prior to his current role, Mr. Worthington served as Assistant Dean Community liaison as well as Dean of Students for 4 years at Zion-Benton Twp. High School. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from National Lewis University. His primary responsibilities include leading district attendance initiatives as well as maintain a safe school environment for students, staff in partnership the community.


Phone: (847) 731-9303

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Dr. Chris Pawelczyk, Executive Director of Leadership Support and Strategic Planning

Dr. Pawelczyk has served as Principal of Zion-Benton Twp. High School since 2013.  Prior to this, Dr. Pawelczyk taught high school science and history in the south suburbs of Chicago and worked as an Assistant Principal in the Chicago Public Schools.  He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a concentration in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, his certification in Secondary Education from Chicago State University, his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Governors State University, and a Doctorate in Urban Educational Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  In his role as principal, Dr. Pawelczyk serves as the instructional leader of and lead building administrator for Zion-Benton Twp. High School.


Phone: (847) 731-9803

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Ms. Bonnie Felske, Principal, New Tech @ Zion-Benton East

Bonnie Felske has served District 126 since 2010, serving both as Dean of Students at the Horizon Campus and Assistant Principal at New Tech High @Zion-Benton East. Prior to her role as Assistant Principal, Mrs. Felske taught 7th and 8th grade social science for 15 years in the Zion community.

She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in History and Secondary Education from Lake Forest College and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and School Leadership credentials from Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois.


Phone: (874) -731-9309

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Mr. Zack Livingston, Principal at ZBTH

Zackary Livingston is the son of Derick and Iris Alisha Livingston. Born and raised in Lake County, Illinois, he attended Beach Park and Zion schools. He graduated from Zion Benton Township High School where he credits his interest and desire to work with youth in the surrounding community. After earning a Bachelor's degree at Southern Adventist University, he came back to be a teacher at Zion Central Middle School district 6, while leading out in the "Young Men of Vision" student leadership organization.

He served as an Assistant Principal of Teaching and Learning at North Chicago District 187 and as Assistant Principal of Operations at ZBTHS.


Phone: (847)-731-9597

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Mr. Jay McKnight, Assistant Principal at NT

Jay McKnight has served the students and families of District 126 in various roles since 2008. He has served as a Dean of Students and as a teacher in the Social Science Department where he taught Sociology and United States History.

 

Mr. McKnight grew up in Zion, and after graduating from Zion-Benton, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he was stationed at Camp Pendleton California. Mr. McKnight attended The University of Wisconsin-Parkside where he received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology and his teaching certification. He then completed his Master of Arts in Educational Leadership at American College of Education.


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Degrees and Certifications:

Dr. Joaquin Stephenson, Assistant Principal, ZBTHS

Dr. Stephenson's experience as a teacher, Director of Equity and Family/Community, Engagement, Director of Physical Welfare, Assistant Principal, and Principal, coupled with his ability to lead diverse school districts with a focus on the advancement of academic achievement for all students, makes him an ideal candidate for ZBTHS.

Dr. Stephenson received his bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University (BA w/ a major in Secondary Physical Education). He earned a Master of Arts in School Leadership from Concordia University, and completed his Ed.D. in Administration & Supervision from Loyola University in the spring of 2021.