Leader of Leaders: Millikin Alum Dr. Carrie Hruby '96 Must Wear Many Hats as Superintendent of the O’Fallon School District

Hruby returned to campus to participate in this year’s School of Education’s Interview Bootcamp.

DECATUR, Ill. – Each year, Millikin University alum Dr. Carrie Hruby ‘96 makes it a point to return to campus in late February. Hruby is the Superintendent of O’Fallon School District and comes back for the School of Education’s (SOE) annual Interview Bootcamp. Hruby and several other SOE alums conduct mock interviews with student-teachers nearing graduation to prepare them for those real-world interviews quickly approaching. 

“I never miss the Bootcamp because it's so important to me. I feel it's really important to give back to the current students and my university that did so much for me,” Hruby said. “I've been so impressed with the students that Millikin is preparing. Every year, we see high-caliber students, and it's refreshing for me to come back and talk to them about their aspirations and where they are going.”

Carrie Hruby

Hruby’s family has deep connections with Millikin as her brother and sister-in-law – Mark Dorgan ’93 and Misty Lynch Dorgan ’95 – are both Millikin graduates. Her niece and nephew – Harris Dorgan and Sophie Dorgan – are current Millikin students, majoring in History and Biology Pre-Physician Assistant, respectively. 

When Hruby was a senior Elementary Education major, she was in the same shoes as this year’s group of student-teachers, and she wishes the Interview Bootcamp had been an available resource then. 

“It's such an advantage when they're going out to interview because interviewing is a skill. You have to practice feeling comfortable interviewing, and the students can get that experience,” she said. “What's nice about it is that we also give them feedback. I can say, here’s what you did well and what I think I would change and give them some real-life critical feedback they need.”

Carrie Hruby

Hruby has served as O’Fallon School District Superintendent since 2015, and previously, she was also Superintendent for Ball-Chatham School District. The road to administration leadership wasn’t clear for Hruby when she began teaching a second-grade class for the Riverton School District. 

“I could see myself retiring in that position, which I truly loved to do. I love teaching kids at that age, and they're so eager to learn and excited,” Hruby said. “As I was teaching then, I was tapped on the shoulder several times to say, ‘I think you have a lot of leadership qualities.’ I feel like those were things that I got from Millikin with the leadership opportunities here.”

As the academic and administrative leader of a school district, Hruby has to wear many hats, from setting the direction the district is taking, inspiring the principals and leaders in the district, as well as guiding the programs through legal obstacles. 

“A superintendent is the leader of leaders, so the superintendent works very closely with principals and district office staff to ensure that the school district's vision is headed in the right direction. We have bigger conversations about balancing budgets, ensuring that a tax levy is filed and that we're getting the dollars kids need to get the materials and resources they need,” Hruby said. “A superintendent's role is often very political too and we are very engaged with groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary. The superintendent must also know about school law and ensure that everyone on the staff understands what we can and can't do. It’s a very well-rounded position, and that’s what makes it exciting; every day is different.”

Carrie Hruby

One of the hurdles Hruby faces is a continuing teacher shortage and is a reason she returns for the Interview Bootcamp to see Millikin’s new group of teachers entering the job market. 

“It is refreshing to see that we have so many great candidates coming out of Millikin because it's a national teaching shortage,” Hruby said. “One of the biggest challenges is making sure that we can fill positions and fill them with quality candidates that want to stay and be loyal to a school district and see their careers blossom in our school district.”

Hruby collected some of the lessons learned as superintendent in her first book, “Comfy Shoes and Key Chains: Tips for Women in Leadership,” published in 2023 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Each chapter tells the story of a woman in leadership who faces adversity and learns to overcome it. Hruby also shares tips and insightful lessons on confidence, self-care, communication, engagement and avoiding burnout.

Comfy Shoes

“The book came about because of my experiences as a female leader. I'm in a position that is historically a male-dominated career. However, we lead school districts that are primarily female teachers,” she said. “Only about 28% of superintendents are female, and because of that, we have some challenges that our male colleagues possibly don't have.”

Hruby has a second book project forthcoming titled “Making Personnel Personal,” which is geared towards K-12 school leaders on the topic of human resources and how to be a better boss.

In those moments when being a leader of the leaders is a challenge, Hruby can reset by remembering what brought her into education during those days at Millikin. 

“On days that I'm feeling bogged down with budgets or days that are pretty tough, I can stop and go into a kindergarten classroom,” Hruby said. “That brings me back to why I am doing all this. The exciting part about superintendency is that you get to connect back to the kids and realize, this is why I'm working so hard. Spending this much time and energy in this position because it will help these students in the future.”