ELGIN, Ill. (WLS) -- The head of the second-largest school district in Illinois is taking on an even bigger role.
Elgin District U-46 Superintendent Dr. Tony Sanders is about to fill a position at the state level that was once held by his father.
Sanders met his new colleagues Wednesday morning at a reception at the state school board's downtown offices. It's a big change from District U-46 in Elgin where Sanders has worked for the last 15 years, including the last nine as superintendent.
"I'm going from 37,000 students to 2 million," Sanders said. "So I'll have a lot of names to learn."
The new state school superintendent is actually pretty familiar with the job. He posed next to a picture of his father, Ted Sanders, who served as state superintendent in the 1980s. Tony went to high school in Springfield and started his career in education there. He always hoped to return.
SEE ALSO | 2022 Illinois school report card shows highest graduation rate in a decade, chronic absenteeism
"There's only one job I would ever leave U-46 for, and that's the state superintendent if I were lucky enough to get it," Sanders said. "So this is a dream come true."
After a national search with hundreds of candidates, the state found its next superintendent in the northwest suburbs. At District U-46, his accomplishments include expanding early childhood education, going to all-day kindergarten, and expanding a dual-language program that is considered a national model.
"I hope he will bring the perspective of local school districts to Springfield because sometimes the issues we face aren't heard," U-46 Board President Sue Kerr said.
Sanders plans to split his time between Chicago and Springfield. But he also hopes to find time to spend with kids in schools.
"The best part of any job in education is being around students," Sanders said. "That's what fills our bucket every day."
Sanders name remains on his desk for the next few weeks. He's expected to take over officially as the new state superintendent at the end of February.