New Park City superintendent ‘excited for this adventure’
Education has always been a key part of Jill Gildea’s life.
As a child, she would line up her dolls in a pretend classroom and teach them. She became a teacher years later and started working with real students in a real classroom in the Chicago area. Now, her career in education brought her to Park City, where she plans to serve as the superintendent of the Park City School District.
The Park City Board of Education selected Gildea for the position on May 25. She is scheduled to step into her new role on Aug. 1. She will replace Ember Conley, former superintendent of the district. Conley accepted a position in Arizona.
Gildea grew up in Chicago and pursued education the first opportunity she could. She studied English and secondary education at Bradley University in Illinois, but struggled to find an open teaching position in the area. She ended up finding a job teaching reading and language arts at a middle school and stayed there for 10 years.
She then moved to a position in the English department of a high school for multiple years before switching to become a principal at an elementary school.
As principal, she worked closely with the superintendent, who helped push her to see her potential in the district.
“He really opened that window to what a superintendency was and what kind of things they work on,” she said. “Because of his influence, that led to my interest in becoming a superintendent. I’ve had some really strong career goal role models.”
At the district level, she worked as curriculum director, educational programs director and assistant superintendent before deciding to become a superintendent at Fremont School District 79 in Illinois.
She stayed there for seven years before leaving for the East Coast with her family. Her husband was set to work at a position in New York, and Gildea planned to find a new position close by. She was hired to be the superintendent in Greenwich, Connecticut.
But, after a couple of months, her husband’s work required that he move to West Jordan. Gildea remained in Connecticut to finish out the school year.
She saw the opening in Park City and thought that it would be the perfect fit. Although she said that she was sad to leave Greenwich, she was glad to find a position that made it so her family could live together again. She will be moving to Utah with her husband, daughter and two dogs.
Because of the experience that led her to become a superintendent, one of her priorities in Park City is to create a culture of teams and mentors within the district in order to continually prepare individuals from within to take on new leadership roles.
“We have to grow the next generation of leaders,” she said.
She also plans to focus on keeping the school’s facilities and technology up to date. She has seen education evolve over the decades she has spent in schools and hopes to prepare students for college, careers and life. She said that teaching concepts rather than lessons is the direction education is moving in.
Park City is on the right track, but she hopes to see it continue to improve, she said.
She is excited to be a part of the new master-planning projects in order to ensure that students have the tools they need to succeed. She was involved in a master-planning project at her last position in Connecticut and worked continuously on keeping resources and facilities updated for students while in Illinois.
Gildea will be stepping into the role along with several new hires. Traci Evans will step in as interim associate superintendent of teaching, learning and technology after Kathleen Einhorn steps down this summer. The new principal of Park City High School, Roger Arbabi, and interim principal of Ecker Hill Middle School, Sam Salinas, are set to start this summer as well.
But she said that having so many new people could have its benefits.
“I think it’s great because we learn the place together,” she said.
Her plan is to remain in Park City for as long as she can, hopefully long enough to see the kindergarten class go all the way through its senior year.
“I feel like Park City is such a positive, vibrant place,” she said. “That is the part that I am really so excited about. … We are excited for this adventure.”
Members of the Silver Summit Academy’s elementary PTO say students have had recess in busy parking lots because the school does not have an established playground or outdoor area for the kids.