Student Development Liaisonjames.email@example.com(708) 656-8000
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Dr. Kerry Foderaro is a superintendent in one of Illinois’ more affluent suburbs, but the people and experiences encountered along the way going to Morton College in blue-collar Cicero formed the guiding principles he uses today in leading Cass School District 63 in Darien.
The memory of the late Bob “Slivers” Slivovsky (center in photo taken at old Comiskey Park), Morton College’s do-it all in the athletic department, comes to mind whenever Foderaro (at far right in photo) makes a hiring decision.
“It was just the way Slivers went about his job,” Foderaro said. “Being 17 and 18 years old and going to Morton College, it was hard to truly appreciate someone so dedicated and loyal. As superintendent, one of my functions is to recommend to the Board of Education the right person to best meet our needs for employment.
“I look for a Slivers’ type of individual - someone who is passionate for what he or she does and who sincerely cares about the students and the school district. I believe if every employer could have someone like a Slivers on their team, their organization would be so much better.”
When defining group harmony and togetherness, Foderaro looks back on Morton College’s 1977 state runner-up baseball team as the template.
“If conditions are conducive in a school district for a group to gel like our baseball team did in 1977, a lot of good things can happen for kids,” Foderaro said.
Foderaro grew up on the 3400 block of Austin Boulevard in Cicero and graduated from Morton East High School in 1975. He was here for the first day of classes as a 17-year-old freshman at the new Morton College campus and also played in the school’s last football game, a 40-16 loss to Rock Valley where Foderaro got off a 60-yard punt.
“It was an exciting time,” Foderaro recalled. “The facility was great. It was very enjoyable to start school in a brand-new building. It was such a contrast going from attending a significantly older school to a modern, state-of-the-art school. They really did a nice job. I remember seeing the campus being built while I would drive by leading up to my first day at Morton College.
“It was a beautiful, new, shiny facility with all the bells and whistles. It was an enticing, motivating place where students could take advantage of a college education basically right in their own backyard. Blue and orange never looked so good together.”
The September 1975 opening of the Morton College campus at its current location on 38th Street and Central Avenue was a landmark day for the community following a period where the school existed in a nomadic fashion after breaking away from the high school. With classes and offices located in storefronts, churches and community centers all over the district, College officials clearly understood running all across Cermak Road was no way to get an education.
Morton College provided Foderaro the opportunity to extend his athletic career and further his education. Plus, the price was right.
“A tuition semester hour was $6,” Foderaro said. “You could take a full load of classes for a school year of 10 three-semester hour classes for $180 a year, plus a $4 activity fee. That was a steal. I was also fortunate as I was offered generous athletic tuition waivers to pay for tuition. I only had to pay for books and fees. That was a tremendous deal to be able to go to college.”
With 35 years in education, the 56-year-old Foderaro now can look back and fully appreciate the effort of those associated with Morton College in that time of transition of going from being affiliated with the high school to an independent community college district with its own administration, Board of Trustees and campus.
“I am sincerely grateful to the Morton College staff, administration and Board who were able to pull it all it together at that time,” Foderaro said, “and to the community as a whole for providing their support and funding for the College.”
Morton College gave Foderaro the opportunity to chart out a career path and earn an associate’s degree, the first of his five college degrees. He tried accounting, business and even graphic arts, but just could not develop a passion for those majors. He thought about the people who significantly impacted his life like Tony Lavorato, his junior high school science teacher and basketball/softball coach at Lincoln; and John Sime, his guidance counselor and basketball/baseball coach at Morton East.
“I started looking at the people around me and how they were able to influence me as a student on and off the field,” Foderaro said. “They were like Slivers, passionate at what they did. These educational role models had an extremely positive effect on me. I wanted to have an opportunity to make a similar type of impact on others.”
Playing for Stan Pace, Foderaro was part of two of Morton College’s most memorable baseball teams that qualified for the state tournament. As a freshman in 1976, the Panthers were two and out at state.
The next year, Morton College came out of the losers’ bracket to play six games in three days to advance to the state title game for the first and only time in school history. Although Morton College’s run ended when Southeastern pushed across four runs in the top of ninth inning for a 7-3 win in the championship contest, Foderaro and Steve Cesario were named to the all-tournament team and later selected to play in an all-star game made up of junior college players from across the state at the old Comiskey Park.
“It was a unique and diverse group of ballplayers,” said Foderaro, a catcher. “Half of us were from Morton East and half from Morton West. We played at a surprisingly high level. It provided a lifetime of fond memories and it has and will continue to always be a pleasure to think about. The team had a lot of great players and I was just humbled to be part of a team that was so talented.”
Interestingly, it was a soccer player who deserves the assist for Foderaro reaching his goal of playing at a four-year school at the NCAA Division I level. Aleks Mihailovic, a classmate of Foderaro at Morton East, was the team’s soccer star at Jacksonville University. The four-time team MVP and Jacksonville’s first All-American soccer player convinced the baseball coaches at the Florida school to consider recruiting two of his hometown buddies in Foderaro and Bob Gaedele.
The 1970s were Jacksonville’s glory days in athletics. The men’s basketball team reached the NCAA title game in 1970 and baseball came up a game short of reaching the College World Series in 1976. Mihailovic, who went on to play professional soccer and have his number retired at Jacksonville, was in the process of becoming just the third player in NCAA Division I men’s soccer history to reach 40 goals and 40 assists in a career.
“Aleks convinced the coaches to take a look at Bob and myself,” Foderaro said. “I was interested in playing at the next level. It was a great opportunity available to us. I was 19 years old, this was Division I and it was in Florida. It was very fortunate the way it worked out for me. I was lucky.”
Foderaro played for a pair of major-league pitchers at Jacksonville. The late Jack Lamabe was Foderaro’s coach junior year. After Lamabe left for LSU, ex-White Sox pitcher Tom Bradley was hired from St. Mary’s College in California.
“I learned a lot playing for both Coach Lamabe and Bradley,” Foderaro remembered.
Foderaro earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and secondary education from Jacksonville, making him the first in his family to graduate from college. He had a job offer from a school system similar to high-achieving New Trier in Florida, but turned it down because of a desire to return to the Chicago area.
His career path took Foderaro to the North Shore, starting with eight years at St. Athanasius School in Evanston and three more at St. Lambert in Skokie, where he was the principal at the young age of 29. Foderaro received a taste of administrative duties early in his career when the principal at St. Athanasius asked for help with a project during his second year.
“I discovered I had a passion for the administrative function of education,” said Foderaro, who was promoted to assistant principal the following year. “The principal at St. Athanasius (Dr. Albert Palucci) helped support me in advancing my education and focusing on educational administration. I truly enjoyed myself at both St. Athanasius and St. Lambert and I am still in contact with many of the families in both parishes.”
Foderaro then moved on to Glenview School District 34, where he was a superintendent intern and elementary school principal for 11 years. Dr. William Attea, the superintendent at time, encouraged Foderaro to continue his education and seek a district office administrative position.
Foderaro heeded his advice and worked for four years as an associate superintendent at Oswego School District 308. With currently over 17,000 students, it was one of the state’s largest and fastest-growing school districts.
Again, Foderaro found another mentor in David Behlow, the superintendent at Oswego who supported his goal of becoming a superintendent. It happened in July of 2005 when Foderaro was named superintendent at Cass, a district of two schools serving approximately 850 students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
During the time Foderaro was climbing the academic ladder, he also was furthering his education with a pair of master’s degrees and a doctorate in educational administration and supervision from National-Louis University.
“Cass is a great community,” Foderaro said. “School families and community members at large are extremely supportive of the school district. There is a high level of support, mutual respect and understanding of respective needs. As a school district, we feel fortunate to be able to provide a broad comprehensive curricular offering in both core and extracurricular activities.”
In his duties as superintendent, Foderaro views himself as an equal colleague to fellow staff members.
“For the staff, our district office’s role is to provide them with the support and resources they need to do a great job in meeting students’ needs,” Foderaro said. “We are not there to saddle or hinder them. The district office is needed to be a resource to enhance, not a dark side to burden.”
Wherever Foderaro’s life path has taken him, he maintains relationships to this day at every stop with Morton College being one of those special places.
“I have no doubt that without Morton College, my life would be completely different,” Foderaro said. “Not only did the college provide me with an opportunity to extend my athletic career, Morton provided me with an opportunity to earn my associate’s degree, which provided more opportunities for advancement in my formal education as well as success professionally and in my life in general.
“I know I was just one of many that Morton College gave the opportunity to upgrade their course in life and I am sincerely grateful.”