On behalf of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 senior leadership team, I would like to welcome our students, educators, and families to the 2019-2020 school year! We are looking forward to seeing many familiar and new faces when we open our doors for K-8 students on Monday, August 26, and for students who are enrolled in the JEH Early Childhood Center on Tuesday, September 3. The strength of District 65 is the strength of its community including dynamic children, engaged family and community members, and dedicated staff members who approach their work with passion, commitment, and care. As we open the year, I encourage all of us – our staff, students, families, and Evanston/Skokie residents – to connect, build relationships, listen, learn and support each other in the upcoming school year.

As many in our community know, this summer brought a leadership change in District 65. After five years of dedicated service, Superintendent Paul Goren and the School Board agreed that this was an opportune time to transition leadership responsibilities. I speak on behalf of many in the organization when I sincerely thank Dr. Goren for his leadership, mentorship, and his commitment to D65 students and families. We have a strong foundation to continue our important work and we are deeply grateful.

This summer, the School Board selected BWP & Associates search firm, led by Dr. Debra Hill, a former long-term educator in District 65. BWP is supporting the Board in conducting a nationwide search for a full-time superintendent to begin in the 2020-2021 school year. Board leaders have committed to an inclusive and transparent search process. More details on how to be involved will be forthcoming.

On August 19, the School Board announced interim leadership for the 2019-2020 school year. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Phil Ehrhardt and Dr. Heidi Wennstrom joining us as Interim Superintendents. Both are veteran educators who retired this spring with decades of experience having served as teachers, school administrators, and superintendents. The Board opted to hire two retired superintendents, who have limitations on the amount of time they are able to work during a calendar year, to work staggered part-time schedules. This decision was made to ensure that there is strong, experienced leadership available to serve staff, students, and families in a full-time capacity. 

Dr. Ehrhardt and Dr. Wennstrom are joining an incredibly talented team of educators, administrators, and support staff who have been working hard all summer to provide an outstanding learning environment and experience for all children. They have logged countless hours this summer to make sure that every child is welcomed into a vibrant learning community on the first day.

We made a lot of progress in the past year in our journey towards racial and educational equity. We continue to engage staff across the organization in professional learning around race, racism, and bias. We created system-wide protocols for handling situations of racism, discrimination, and hate when they occur in our schools. We put gender support plans in place for transgender and gender expansive students. And, we have expanded our capacity around providing students with culturally responsive learning opportunities.

We continue to make progress, yet realized that we needed to narrow our priorities in order to increase our focus and make a larger impact on academic outcomes for Black and LatinX students. We are deepening our commitment to restorative practices and social emotional learning by centering relationship building and the development of pro-social skills among pre-k through eighth grade students. The goal of this work is to strengthen the sense of belonging in our school communities, strengthen our ability to restore relationships, and to create stronger learning environments. It is in these stronger learning environments that we engage our students in relevant and challenging learning. More information about these priorities as well as our progress will be shared throughout the school year.

I would like to invite all members of the District 65 family to attend our third annual Back-to-School Ice Cream Social on Thursday, August 29, from 4:30-6:30pm on the front lawn of the JEH Education Center (1500 McDaniel Avenue). We look forward to celebrating the start of the new school year and welcoming our interim leadership.

Best wishes for a great school year!