Michael J. RussellMichael J. Russell
Rock Island Intermediate Academy
Rock Island/Milan School District No. 41
Rock Island, Illinois

As founding principal of Rock Island Intermediate Academy, Mike Russell led its development starting in 2005. With a team of staff members, parents, and community members, he created a school offering a full spectrum of academic and social services to meet the needs of the mostly poor 357 students. Russell also led the development of systems in the school that respond to changing student and teacher needs. Staff collaboration and analysis of data on student learning also enhance the school’s success. A key challenge and significant accomplishment of Russell’s principalship has been addressing security concerns in the school’s urban environment. Using the theme “community of peace” and forming a peace choir to spread a message of harmony, the school has promoted its neighborhood as a safe and inviting place. Among five “passions” that the school has embraced to move toward educational excellence is community involvement. “Our students are members of families, churches, neighborhoods, community groups, and organizations,” says Russell. “In order for our school to be truly effective in preparing our students to be successful citizens, we must actively partner with these groups.” His school daily welcomes large numbers of volunteers who provide positive role models for students. Russell received a B.S. from Northern Illinois University and an M.S. from Western Illinois University.