K  Young

by Jeff D'Alessio 

Following a competitive national search for their next head of school last winter, Countryside’s board of directors came to realize that the best person for the job was already doing it.

So in February, leaders of the K-8 private school of about 150 that sits on 14 acres on west Champaign announced that, come summertime, KRYSTAL YOUNG would go from interim head of school to having the job full-time.

A 1997 Oakwood High grad and mom to three middle schoolers, Young describes Countryside as “the school you wish you could have attended as a child,” with hallways “filled with happy children and supportive adults” and “a simple yet engaging mission to foster joy in learning and excellence in education.”

With the start of school now less than two weeks away, the two-degree UI alumna with a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in education took time out to answer questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 88th installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting leaders of organizations big and small.

My single favorite moment of all-time in this job was … our last day of school in May 2021. Countryside had survived one of the most difficult years in K-12 education and we did it with zero instances of COVID transmission.

I was immensely proud of our community. Our middle school celebrated with a flour bomb war. I think I’m still cleaning flour out of my car.

My philosophy on meetings is … I think they are useful, but never have a meeting that could have been an email.

The hardest thing about being a leader is … the responsibility of making the hard choices that you know will not be universally embraced, but are necessary.

I can’t live without my … planner. I will forget everything if I don’t write it down.

My business role model is … such a cliché, but it is my husband, Jeff. He was 23 when he started his own company.

Watching him successfully navigate relationships with his clients — and most importantly, as he’ll tell you, his employees — has greatly impacted who I am as a leader.

I’m frugal in that … my family laughed when I read this out loud. Clearly, they don’t think frugal describes me.

However, I do pack my lunch almost every day.

My one unbreakable rule of the workplace is … if you give your word, hold yourself to it.

The biggest business risk I ever took was … leaving our family company, Codagami, to take the head of school position at Countryside. Both places are coming out of the pandemic extremely well, so it has paid off.

When it comes to the last luxury in which I indulged … my family enjoys traveling, and with COVID we have been homebound waiting for our youngest daughter to be eligible for vaccination.

This winter, we are very excited to be headed to Hawaii.

The most beneficial college classes I took were … in graduate school. Professor Willis at the University of Illinois was not only my advisor but taught the most meaningful classes that prepared me for teaching.

I’m up and at ’em every day by … 6 a.m.

My exercise routine … depends on the week. I have a Peloton that I have a very passionate love/hate relationship with.

As far as the worst job I’ve ever had goes … I’m lucky I’ve never had a worst job. However, my first job was at a McDonald’s in Danville.

My first day — closing shift — was the night they cleaned out the fryer exhaust. Let’s just say I went home not sure there was going to be a day number 2.

I went on to work there for several years.

On a 1-to-10 scale, the impact of the pandemic has been … I’m an elementary/middle school principal so … 47. However, Countryside didn’t just survive, we thrived — and I am so proud of that accomplishment.

As a family, the impact was a 5. We were able to slow down and take stock of what was truly important. We had slid into a place where there was very little downtime.

COVID forced the downtime and we all enjoyed it.