The finalists for superintendent of Unit 5

By WEEK Reporter

February 16, 2014 Updated Feb 17, 2014 at 11:11 AM CDT

NORMAL, Ill. -- The list is down to three people for the position of superintendent for Normal's Unit 5 School District.

One of them will take over for Superintendent Gary Niehaus when he retires the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

Each candidate agreed that building relationships is key to a student's success.

"It is about relationships. How do you keep relationships, and how do you plan strategically to involve students, to enable students to form relationships with a significant adult in the educational setting," said Mark Daniel, superintendent at Dowagiac Union Schools in Michigan.

He said bringing everyone together is key to being a successful leader.

Todd Koehl is no stranger to the district.

He started his career as an English teacher for Unit 5. Now, he's a Superintendent in O'Fallon Illinois.

He said his biggest challenge the first year would be creating a common vision.

“We'll continue to communicate with the public and use every means we have to do so. We'll be transparent,” Koehl said. “And as far as balancing the budget, we'll continue to monitor costs and make sure the classroom is protected."

He adds that community forums are something he would put in place to make sure everyone is one the same page.

Michael Popp said the capacity of Unit 5 drew him to the position.

He is currently the executive director at Indian Prairie School district in Aurora.

"I have a very strong focus on instruction. It's not so much bringing in a new program as it is saying 'we know we've got the skill and capacity to teach every kid in this district. Let's hone our instruction to that focus," Popp said.

The board is expected to announce the new leader by the end of March.

The new superintendent will take over responsibilities on July 1.