At the District 65 School Board’s Aug. 19 meeting, Debra A. Hill provided an update on the search for a new Superintendent who will take over starting with the 2020-2021 school year. Dr. Hill is the Managing Director of BWP & Associates, the District’s Superintendent search consultants.

Dr. Hill said an announcement of the vacancy for a Superintendent has been posted on BWP’s and District 65’s websites. The announcement states that the qualifications include “past leadership success in a suburban/urban setting with a diverse student population and community” and “knowledge of and experience in promoting culturally responsive pedagogy and racial equity.”

The announcement also says, “The Board seeks a Superintendent who will provide dynamic leadership to advance District Goals:

 “1. A strong commitment to racial/ethnic equity and to identifying and addressing practices, policies, and institutional barriers, including institutional racism, that perpetuate opportunity and achievement gaps.

“2. The ability to create a culture of collaboration, transparent communication, and trust that authentically engages and partners with staff, families, and other stakeholders to increase student achievement, with a particular focus on increasing outcomes for historically marginalized groups.

“3. A commitment to creating intellectually and socially safe school climates that support cognitively rigorous and culturally responsive instructional practices as well as restorative practices for children and adults.

“4. The ability to creatively and thoughtfully engage in long-term financial planning to ensure the appropriate funding for the instructional priorities and capital needs of the District.”

Dr. Hill also said that BWP has placed ads on several professional association websites, and will place ads for the position in six professional publications. BWP will also actively recruit qualified candidates to apply for the position of Superintendent and solicit nominations from knowledgeable people in the education field.

Gathering Input from the Community

A significant portion of the discussion on Aug. 19 focused on efforts to reach out and gather input from the community to use in developing a profile for the new Superintendent that could be used in selecting a new Superintendent.

The goal of this process is to gather information about what the community views as the significant strengths of the District, the significant challenges facing the District, the characteristics and skills the next Superintendent will need to be successful, and what people would like the School Board to consider when selecting the new Superintendent, said Dr. Hill. 

In line with the plan outlined for the Board at a special meeting on July 18, Dr. Hill said the BWP team has interviewed six members of the Board and it will interview the newly appointed Board member, Elisabeth Lindsay-Ryan, within the next two weeks.

Dr. Hill said the formation of 30 to 35 small focus groups composed of staff, parents and community members is being finalized, and  letters of invitation to serve on a focus group will be distributed next week. The small focus groups will be facilitated by members of the BWP team, and they will all be conducted on Sept. 12.

A community-wide survey will be posted on the District’s website and hard copies will be available at school offices. Everyone may take the survey that will contain about five questions, and also allow for open-ended comments. The survey will be open from Sept. 3 to Sept. 15, and it will be available in English and Spanish.

A community wide meeting will be held on Sept. 12, at which members of the community may attend and provide comments.

BWP also met with a group of community leaders on Aug. 15 to explore ways to increase community engagement in the search process, including ways to obtain input from groups who have traditionally not participated or whose voices have not been heard.

Dr. Hill 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. The profile report will be presented to the Board for its review and approval on Sept. 23.

BWP will then use the profile in subsequent advertising for the position, 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.

Board President Suni Kartha asked about one aspect of the report that would list the top 10 things that community members listed as significant strengths of the District, significant challenges facing the District, the characteristics and skills the community would like to see in a Superintendent, etc. Dr. Hill said BWP would include an item on the list if 80% of the people responding to the survey listed it as a factor. Several Board members expressed concern that some issues important to historically marginalized groups may not be included if they did not meet the 80% threshold.

Dr. Hill said the report would not be limited to the top 10 lists, but would include all the data gathered and all comments made (excluding names of people), and the Board could review all the data and comments in preparing and approving a profile for the new Superintendent. 

Board Vice President Anya Tanyavutti asked if the input from the community would be disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and gender identity. Ms. Kartha asked if it could be disaggregated by English-language learner status, household income and IEP (Individual Education Program) status.

Dr. Hill said BWP could disaggregate the data in any manner the Board would like. Questions will likely be included on the survey to enable BWP to disaggregate the survey responses. Respondents, however, would not be required to answer the questions.

Dr. Hill and members of the Board urged everyone in the community to participate in the process.

For the next steps in the Superintendent Search, see article, “Process Laid Out to Retain Interim Superintendents and Superintendent,” in 

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...