Dr. Paul Goren

The Board of Education announced the anticipated selection of Dr. Paul Goren as the next superintendent of Evanston/Skokie School District 65, said the District in a prepared statement issued this afternoon, March 27. “This expected appointment will be voted on by the Board of Education at its Regular Meeting on Monday, March 31, 2014,” said the statement.

 Dr. Goren was selected after a nationwide search conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates that began last September. He has lived in Evanston for the past 16 years with his wife, Gwen Macsai, and their three children. His children attended Oakton Elementary School and currently attend Chute Middle School and Evanston Township High School.

“We feel very fortunate to have such a talented educator join us in our efforts to provide the very best opportunities for all the students in District 65,” said Tracy Quattrocki, president of the School Board. “Given his knowledge of the Evanston community and his unrelenting commitment to educating the diverse needs of our students, Paul Goren brings so much to our District.”

Dr. Goren holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University School of Education and has spent 25 years in education. At the start of his career he was a middle-school teacher, and after that held leadership positions in three school districts and in organizations whose mission is to improve educational opportunities and the instruction of children.

In the public forums held at King Lab on March 19, Dr. Goren pointed to his tenure at the Minneapolis Public Schools, where he was executive director (deputy superintendent) and was responsible for the district’s budget and finance departments; he also worked there with the director of instruction to align curriculum, instruction and assessment across the district (1995-98).

More recently he served as Interim Chief, Chicago Public Schools Office of Strategy, Research and Accountability, where he developed a Continuous Improvement Workplan for principals and their leadership teams and led departments that focused on improving learning (2010-12).

Since 2012, he has served as senior vice president of CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. In that position he coordinates a national effort in eight urban school districts to embed social and emotional learning into instruction.

Dr. Goren has also served as executive director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research (2010-12); senior vice-president of The Spencer Foundation, which investigates ways in which education can be improved (2001-10); director of Child and Youth Development, Program on Human and Community Development, MacArthur Foundation (1998-2001); deputy director and later director, Education Policy Studies Division, National Governors Association (1991-95); Superintendents Prepared, an Urban Leadership Consortium (1993-94); and policy and procedures director and education analyst at the San Diego United School District (1984-87).

He also serves on the board of the Center for Teaching Quality in Carrboro, N.C., which is dedicated to improving teacher leadership and instruction. He serves or has served on the board of other national organizations whose mission is to improve instruction in science and math.

“Over the course of 34 years in education, Dr. Goren has served as a teacher, coach, deputy superintendent, strategic advisor, and instructional leader and has many years of experience in running diverse urban school districts and designing educational policy,” said District 65 in a prepared statement. “His focus both locally and nationally has been on addressing the achievement gap, promoting healthy child development, helping make data more usable, and improving teaching and learning.”

 “District 65 is filled with the best teachers, outstanding principals, active and engaged parents and community members, and students that are second to none,” said Dr. Goren. “I look forward to meeting and working with all involved in our public schools in ways that will make the citizens of Evanston and Skokie proud. I couldn’t be more excited to join District 65.”

Dr.Goren has also played an active role in local community organizations focused on academic, social, and emotional development of District 65 students. For the last ten years, he has served on the Board of the Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.) and previously served as the Board’s President. He has also served on the Board of Foundation 65.

 “We are delighted that Paul Goren is ready to join District 65’s talented group of teachers, administrators and support staff to serve the students in our district, and we look forward to the great opportunities that lie ahead under his leadership,” said Ms. Quattrocki. “Moreover, we would like to thank our community for its commitment to the important process of selecting the future leader of our schools.”

Areas of Focus as Superintendent 

In his written response to questions posed by the School Board to all candidates for superintendent, Dr. Goren said that he “would focus on several issues simultaneously as part of my leadership responsibilities in District 65.” He said:

 “First, all students deserve the best possible educational opportunities available. We must first and foremost set high expectations for all students so that they have opportunities to succeed and will succeed at the highest of levels. We must also intentionally and aggressively address the achievement gap that exists. This involves ensuring that all of the adults who work for the district understand and embrace these expectations without hesitation or excuse. I would work directly with the district’s principals to ensure that they understand and embrace this expectation for their students, staffs, and communities. I would also work directly with the superintendent and colleagues in District 202 to ensure that both District 65 and Evanston Township High School are working in coordinated and innovative ways to serve all students at the highest levels of performance and outcomes.

“Second, I will focus directly on building the capacity of principals, teachers, and support staffs to support high achievement and continuous improvement. Outstanding education is provided by top-notched teachers and principals, and supported by committed administrative staff. Any high performing staff has to have a sense of how well they are doing, where there is room for improvement, and direct access to on-going professional development that leads to continuous improvement. Setting goals for all students, having data to analyze progress, and making adjustments in order to make a positive difference in the lives of students will be at the foundation of my administration. The data and metrics used will include student academic indicators coupled with data on school climate and culture as well as on the developmental, social and emotional growth of students.

“Third, my administration will emphasize teaching and learning focused on 21st century skills to prepare students for success in high school and beyond. We will engage district educators in professional learning that stresses best practices in instruction, the use of technology, and in differentiated instruction and project-based learning that will have all Evanston and Skokie students working to their highest potential. This will involve developing state of the art diagnostic systems and programming to meet the diverse needs of District 65 students, be they in accelerating their learning or in responding to their special needs. This will also involve active collaboration with District 202, community support agencies, early childhood providers, Northwestern University, members of the local faith communities, and the business community.

“Finally, I am committed to leading a system that stresses efficient and effective operations management ensuring that resources are focused on where they belong, i.e., in the classroom. This includes ensuring that all campuses across the district are safe and secure. Any high performing system needs resources that are applied appropriately and that are under the careful watch of stewards who are accountable to the community and taxpayers. I care deeply about all of these tasks, and about building a staff that can do their job as professionals, respond to challenges when called upon, and be honest when they perhaps do not know all of the answers. Efficiency, effectiveness and transparency will be at the center of my efforts to improve the schools in Evanston and Skokie. This style of leadership is all the more important given the current context of public education and the opportunities and challenges of working in public school districts. Current state budget constraints require leadership that is committed to lead rather than comply. That is what the community requires and that is what the teachers and administrators in District 65 can provide with my involvement, assistance and leadership.”

Management Style

Dr. Goren described his management style at the public forums on March 19, saying, “I’m a team builder.” He said he sets high expectations for his staff, and “leads from behind,” encouraging and coaching others to be responsible for decisions, initiatives and outcomes. “I have extensive experience identifying and nurturing talent.” When it is needed, he said, he leads from the front.

 He said he listens, and will focus on building the capacities of principals, teachers and support staffs.  “You are all experts,” he told the faculty and staff, adding, “I would like to be in the schools as often as I can” to learn where principals and teachers need help and how administrators can provide supports. His approach might be summed up, in his words, “I look at this as a deep partnership.”

He said he would be  a “real advocate and very intentional” in hiring new teachers, and pay attention to how teachers are doing in the first three or four years to make sure the District is keeping the best teachers. Human resources “is the name of the game,” he said, adding that he would draw on his many contacts throughout the country in an effort to recruit great teachers whose diversity reflected that of the student body.

 He endorsed District 65’s community school initiative, the cradle to career initiative, and a focus on a child’s earliest years. He said the District “should be taking advantage of the community we have” and create what he called “a learning ecology.”

Addressing Budget Deficits

With respect to the District’s projected budget deficits, Dr. Goren said at the public forums he would first examine the projections to make sure the projected deficits are “actually what we think [they are].” In addressing deficits, he said, his “guiding principle” would be that “all of the focus has to be on the classroom” and preserving “what’s having success.” If there were no way to address deficits without having a detrimental impact on instruction, he said he would go out for a referendum. He said he managed a $500 million budget for the Minneapolis School District.

“It would be an honor to serve as superintendent of the Evanston and Skokie public schools,” said Dr. Goren.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...