News - Kane County

St. Charles School Board names meeting room after former School Superintendent John Vanko

Left to right, St. Charles School Board President Heidi Fairgrieve, Member Kate Bell, Vice President Joe Lackner, Martha Vanko (wife of John), Ray Rogina, Member Jillian Barker, Secretary Becky McCabe, Member Matthew Kuschert, Member Ed McNally and Dist. 303 Superintendent Paul Gordon.

The St. Charles District 303 School Board is naming its board meeting room in honor of former St. Charles Superintendent John Vanko and his contributions to the district.

“Mr. Vanko touched the lives of countless students and staff throughout his career in education,” Board President Heidi Fairgrieve said. “His impact on District 303 continues to be felt today, and we are pleased to officially recognize this meeting space inside our Haines Center as the John Vanko Community Room.”

Vanko served as the district’s superintendent from 1991 to 1996 and was assistant superintendent from 1976 to 1991. Before coming to the district, he was a teacher and principal at Joliet West High School.

After retiring from District 303, Vanko worked for Aurora University for 13 years, retiring in 2008 as Associate Professor Emeritus at its College of Education.

Vanko passed away in April 2021 after a 15-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 83.

“Educational leaders are recognized in various ways in this community for their part in building the foundation and structure that is School District 303 today,” former St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina, who taught in the district under Vanko’s leadership, said at the Aug. 8 school board meeting. “I can’t tell you how appropriate it is and it is said with great admiration and appreciation to this school board to place the Vanko name on its decision-making, policy-creating room.”

In his first year at the district, Vanko worked with central administration and staff to open what is now St. Charles East High School and played an integral role in opening two new elementary schools in the late 1980s, Fox Ridge and Ferson Creek. In addition, he guided a $44 million referendum in the early 1990s that led to what is now St. Charles North High School.

He also oversaw additions to Lincoln and Richmond elementary schools and established a high school internship program that partnered with local industry.

Vanko had a “hawkish” fiscal acumen, Rogina said.

“He was devoted to spending the taxpayers’ investment wisely,” he said.

Rogina said that in 1994-96, St. Charles High School – now St. Charles East – was named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

“That, my friends, was a source of pride to the school board and John, as well as the high school faculty, yours truly included, and the greater community,” Rogina said.