In the next three weeks, parents, teachers, administrators and all other community members may provide input to assist in the search for a new Superintendent of School District 65.
That is one of the toughest jobs in this town, and we think it is one of the most important. The Superintendent leads the system that educates our youth and prepares them to live, and we hope thrive, in a rapidly changing world. We think this has to be done with an eye on equity, culturally responsive teaching practices, and rigorous instruction that actively engages all students in the process of learning.
District 65 should foster our youths’ social and emotional development, their appreciation of the arts, their ability to communicate and collaborate, their love of learning, and, importantly, their skills to think critically. No child should leave eighth grade with options that are limited by the lack of a robust education.
As anyone who has read our pages for the last 20 years knows, we strongly support setting high standards for every youth and closing the achievement gaps. We also support measuring the District’s progress in educating all of our youth, using high standards, and holding the District accountable. We think that should be done as a matter of fairness, obligation, social justice and equity.
Finding someone who can lead the effort to do all this is no small task. But there is also a financial obligation. The Superintendent must live up to the promises made in connection with the April 2017 referendum – that the District be deficit free through FY 2025 – and must work toward reducing the structural deficit so we are not facing a similar referendum in FY 2026.
In the next three weeks, people in this community will have the opportunity to weigh in and give their view on what they think are the significant strengths of District 65, the significant challenges facing the District, the characteristics and skills the next Superintendent will need to be successful, what they would like the School Board to consider when selecting the new Superintendent, and anything else they would like to offer.
The District is currently forming 30-35 small focus groups composed of staff, parents and community members; and letters of invitation to serve on a focus group will be sent out next week.
We anticipate that about 250 to 300 people will participate in these focus groups. The small focus groups will be facilitated by representatives of BWP & Associates, the District’s Superintendent search consultants, and they will all be conducted on Sept. 12.
Also on Sept. 12, there will be a community-wide meeting for people to provide input. No time has yet been set for that meeting, and the RoundTable will post additional information as we receive it.
Participation in a focus group is limited and selective, but everyone can participate in a community-wide survey that will be available between Sept. 3 and 15 online at District65.net and in paper format at school offices. The survey, available in both English and Spanish, will contain about five questions as well as space for open-ended comments.
Dr. Debra Hill, Managing Director of BWP and a familiar face in Evanston, said the BWP team is trying to get the “collective thought and wisdom” of the community and would like to include the voices of everyone in the community, including those who typically are not heard. “We want everyone to feel they had an opportunity to provide input,” she said.
After BWP collects the community’s input, Dr. Hill said, the team will put together a report that provides a profile for the new Superintendent. Dr. Hill said the report will include the top 10 strengths, the top 10 challenges, the top 10 characteristics the community would like to see in a new superintendent, etc. It will also include all the data and all the comments gathered by BWP in the process. The report will be presented to the Board for its review at the Sept. 23 Board meeting, and the Board may exercise its judgment in deciding what should be included in the profile for the Superintendent.
BWP will use the profile approved by the School Board in subsequent advertising for the position and in BWP’s screening, interviewing and selecting people to submit to the Board for interviews, and in the Board’s selection of a candidate, said Dr. Hill.
There will be other opportunities for the community to participate in the search process once the field is whittled down to two or three candidates. That will not likely be until late November or early December.
We encourage everyone to participate in the next few weeks. This is important to our children’s future.