IL Superintendent Summer Spotlight: Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Peoria Public Schools District #150

This summer, we will get to know more about our Equity First superintendents; many of whom are active in our FIF coalition. Advance Illinois’s Equity First coalition is an alliance of superintendents across Illinois that advocate for public policy that promotes equity in public education for students. The group gathers to discuss education policy and school community issues to help inform Advance Illinois’ education policy agenda and statewide policy broadly.

In this week’s blog we converse with Peoria, Illinois, superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat.

Why did you go into the education field? 

Education is a profession where you can see the impact that you are having on your students and your community. My why is to give each and every child a fighting chance for a good life. 

How does EBF funding play a role in the success of the students you serve or the school district? 

The best word to describe Peoria Public School (PPS)’s position in respect to the IL School Report Card is growth. 56% of PPS schools are designated commendable or higher, compared to only 39.1% in 2018-2019. Nine schools improved in designation compared to four in 2019. Charter Oak Primary School and Reservoir Gifted Middle School were recognized as exemplary schools, placing them in the top 10% of schools state-wide. Franklin Primary School, Harold B. Dawson Jr. Middle School, and Manual High School, 3 schools located in some of the most distressed zip codes in the State, rose from the lowest designation to commendable. Peoria Public Schools places equity practices at the forefront of every strategy and implementation. As we continue our path forward, we will invest in innovative and well-proven strategies to support our school improvement efforts with the following: 

High School Graduation Rate – Intense and deliberate credit recovery and alternative schools allow students to work at their own pace AND at the most convenient times of their day. Constant contact with home school liaisons and deliberate intervention services ensures students stay the course and has had a large impact on outcomes.  

Freshmen on Track – Teachers have all developed specific competencies and allow students to learn from mistakes. The ability to reassess has helped students move more successfully to their sophomore year.  

Attendance – A combination of door-to-door home visits followed by monthly data analysis meetings, interventions, and celebrations have made large improvements in attendance, tardies, and chronic absenteeism.  

Opportunities for Advanced Learning – Improved engagement by expanded options of and access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses while maintaining a strong International Baccalaureate (IB) high school and providing dual enrollment opportunities for students through dual credit courses within the high school setting (both traditional college and CTE pathways) and opportunities for students to spend full days of their junior and senior year on the community college campus.  

Career Pathways – Expansion of career and technical pathway opportunities has increased industry credentials earned by students to over 600 with most students earning at least two credentials, certifications, licenses, and dual credit.  

Curriculum Revitalization – Breathing new life into curriculum and professional development impacting mathematics, Science, English/Language Arts, and Social Studies (including newly adopted Black History curriculum for middle school and high school students) has realigned learning to much higher levels of rigor while still providing intervention support. The literacy framework has been restructured so students are reading at grade level by third grade. Students writing every day is an additional focus to increase proficiency. Individual devices are also more readily available in classrooms. Innovation – Hiring parents as Parent Advocates provides support throughout school buildings while improving parent-teacher relationships. Our International Teacher Exchange program also allows students to learn from teachers from diverse countries.  

Social Emotional – In addition to counseling supports present at each school, the district added two alternative programs to provide SEL and academic supports for primary and middle school students. School Resource Officers focus on intervening and mentoring students. The Justice Advocate staff are assigned to students who are actively engaged with the law. As a result, more students are back in school with a recidivism rate lower than what is seen state-and-nationwide.  

Assistance – Unique to our District is the Wraparound Center where individuals can receive food assistance, counseling services, services for victims and relatives of violent crime, juvenile probation services, programs for single parents, drug and alcohol treatment, legal services, employment training, and certification programs.  

The growth of Peoria Public Schools is a testament to our skilled educators, dedicated board members, resilient students and families, and critical/constant support from community partners and the wider Peoria community. With a clear vision and well-demonstrated strategies, we will continue to accelerate learning and provide more opportunities and growth for a remarkable future for every student. 

Tell us about your school district. What are some accomplishments you want to highlight from your school?

Accomplishments include:  

  • Virtual town hall meetings  
  • Wraparound Center  
  • Food pantry  
  • Counseling  
  • Respite  
  • Modified calendar  
  • District-wide literacy and math 
  • Flexible seating (available in all K-8 buildings)  
  • Dual Degree Option – HS diploma and Associates degree  
  • Instrumental updates  

What have been some of the challenges you’ve had or are addressing in your school district?  

Ensuring that every child is reading in first grade or before.  

What resources and supports can further benefit your school? Or what resources/supports have made a positive difference? 

Additional funding would allow us to do the following to benefit our students such as: 

  • Providing additional security staff in its schools.  

  • Provide reading recovery teachers to accelerate reading achievement thereby closing the disparity in academic skills of students in our classrooms. 

  • Provide more classroom teachers in reading recovery and middle school algebra to augment academic intervention opportunities for our students and provide an earlier and enriched math exposure students would otherwise not have. 


 Fun fact about yourself: 

I was a rollerskating champion when I was a kid.