The end of the 2021–2022 school year is upon us, marking the final year of Dr. Jim McKay’s service to the students, staff and communities of District 117. For the last 12 years, Dr. McKay has served as Community High School District 117 superintendent. But his journey has an educational leader in Northwest Lake County started two decades earlier. For 22 years, Dr. McKay has touched the lives of countless students, faculty and community members throughout his various roles in the District.
“Dr. McKay has served the district for 22 years, impacting every student he taught in his classroom and, as superintendent, every student in the district,” said Wayne Sobczak, District 117 Board of Education president. “He’s respected in all of our communities for his community service with our civic organizations and collaborative efforts with our villages, our townships and our local and county law enforcement. Dr. McKay is a leader who has one goal on a daily basis: to do what is in the best interest of our students. He will certainly be missed.”
From Science to Superintendent
Dr. McKay began his tenure at District 117 in 2000 as a science teacher instructing chemistry at Antioch Community High School. He quickly rose through the ranks to become the science department chair and assistant principal.
After seeing significant growth in the Northwest Lake County area in the early 2000s, District 117 expanded, and in 2004, opened Lakes Community High School to a group of freshmen and sophomore students. Two years later, in 2006, Dr. McKay was named principal of Lakes Community High School, where he established many traditions that are still carried on today, including the Eagle Pride Monthly Celebration He also established the Lakes Eagles Booster Club which has given back to students annually since its inception.
In 2010, he began his stewardship as District 117 superintendent. When he accepted the position, he ensured the community of his plans by saying, “While a new person may be exciting, there is always a learning curve. In this situation, no valuable time will be lost.”
That same year, he also communicated to District 117 stakeholders that he was “looking forward to continuing to develop and strengthen the district’s academic programs in order to enhance student achievement.”
Thank You, Dr. McKay
For more than a decade, Dr. McKay has done just this. From his various philanthropic efforts to leading his the district through the COVID-19 pandemic to working to establish both Antioch Community High School and Lakes Community High School as two of the leading public high schools in the state, Dr. McKay has been a leader both within the district and within the community at large.
“Dr. McKay’s leadership and his passion for the improvement of our community will be felt for many years to come,” said Andrew Seketa, district transition coordinator. “I consider it a privilege to have been able to learn from him as a student, a community member and eventual staff member. We all owe Dr. McKay a collective ‘thank you’ for his many years of dedication and service.”
Part of Dr. McKay’s work to further the reputation of District 117’s schools could be found in the strategic plans he created. These plans subsequently led to expanding more opportunities for students to get involved in academic and extracurricular activities, both inside and outside the walls of the schools.
“Dr. McKay has provided our community with a strong sense of pride as we are now on the map as having a couple of the finest high schools in the state,” said Mark Ring, LCHS PE chair and activities Director. “This will only bring more like-minded people to our community looking for a great education, propelling us to an even stronger community.”
Jaclyn Orlov, ACHS’s AP of curriculum and instruction, agrees.
“I feel fortunate to have worked with Dr. McKay during my 15 years in District 117,” Orlov said. “Dr. McKay served as my principal and superintendent and in both of these capacities he has been a role model. He has always been present and supportive. Whether leading by example through a challenging time, or making appearances as a supporter at countless district events, you could always count on Dr. McKay to support the efforts of the district. It has been an honor to work with Dr. McKay, and I wish him the best in his retirement.”
Thank you, Dr. McKay — you will be missed!