Special School District hires new superintendent


Special School District Superintendent Elizabeth Keenan, above in black, surprises Sarah Nowell with the award for SSD’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

The Special School District of St. Louis County has a new superintendent this school year after the SSD Board of Education unanimously approved hiring Elizabeth Keenan last April.

Keenan began her job at SSD July 1.

She replaced previous Superintendent Donald Bohannan, who retired after 32 years in the district. Bohannan served as superintendent for his last five years. Before that, the late former Mehlville Superintendent John Cary served as the longtime superintendent of SSD.

Keenan holds a doctorate in leadership studies from Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She also earned a specialist’s degree, a master’s degree in special education and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Previously, she held the position of chief officer of the office of diverse learners and health and wellness for Chicago Public schools, which focused on supporting students with special needs to ensure they are prepared for post-secondary success. Chicago Public Schools, the third largest district in the country, has a total enrollment of 360,000 students and provides education services to nearly 51,000 students. In her role with Chicago Public Schools, Keenan oversaw a $1 billion budget.

She began working in education as a special-education teacher and also worked as a school principal before joining a school district in a suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul as the director of special services, followed by a position as the director of curriculum and instruction.

Keenan joined Saint Paul Public Schools as assistant superintendent of the office of specialized services in 2011.

“Special education is near and dear to my heart,” Keenan said in a press release. “While I ultimately wanted to serve as a school district superintendent, I didn’t want to lose that piece.”

Keenan will earn $245,000 per year for her first year of a three-year contract.