Karen Demorest of Youth Job Center and Monique Jones of Evanston Community Foundation discuss the profile for a new executive director for EC2C. RoundTable photo

Representatives of about 30 partners in the Evanston Cradle to Career (EC2C) initiative met on Feb. 14 to discuss developing a profile to use in selecting a new Executive Director for the organization. On Jan. 10, EC2C announced that Sheila Merry would step down as Executive Director, effective June 30.

More than 40 organizations are currently partners in EC2C, including School Districts 65 and 202, the City of Evanston, Northwestern University, and many non-profit organizations and faith communities. The mission is: “By the age of 23, all Evanston young adults will be on the path to leading happy, healthy, productive, and satisfying lives.”

Monique Jones, President and CEO of the Evanston Community Foundation, Karen Demorest, Executive Director of the Youth Job Center, Lawrence Hemingway, Director of Parks, Recreation & Community Services of the City of Evanston, and Eric Witherspoon, Superintendent of School District 202, are serving as the Human Resource Committee (HRC), and they will make the hiring decision, Ms. Jones and Ms. Demorest told the RoundTable.

Ms. Jones told the group that EC2C had already received many applications for the Executive Director position, but before proceeding further, the HRC wanted to obtain input from the partnering organizations to assist in selecting candidates for interviews and in making the final decision.

Dr. Heidi Wennstrom, one of the Interim Superintendents of School District 65, explained how it was helpful to use a profile developed with input from the community in selecting a new Superintendent for District 65. She said the input gathered from EC2C’s partners will be used to develop a profile for the new Executive Director of EC2C, and the profile will be used to determine which candidates will be selected for interviews and who will be selected as the new leaders of EC2C.

“I think we have audacious goals and need an audacious leader to achieve those goals. Your input now is going to leverage the decision-making at the end,” Dr. Wennstrom said.

Ms. Jones described the process to gather input. There were seven tables, with about four or five people at each table. With the help of a facilitator, the people at each table were asked to discuss five questions for five minutes and after each question was discussed to spend five minutes writing their response to each question. The five questions were:

“What do you think are the unique challenges of this position in contrast to that of an Executive Director of a direct service nonprofit?

“What special challenges do you see in replacing a founding Executive Director?

“What personal and professional characteristics do you think are important for someone taking over this position?

“What specific skills do you think this person particularly needs to possess?

“What responsibility do we have as an EC2C partner in supporting this person in being successful in this new role?”

Ms. Demorest said a survey would be sent to partners of EC2C who were not able to attend the Feb. 14 meeting, and the survey would also be provided to aldermen, members of the School Boards, and some members of the community.

After the responses are collected, EC2C staff will summarize the responses in a profile for the new Executive Director.

Ms. Jones and Ms. Demorest told the RoundTable that the HRC will use the profile in deciding which candidates to interview, and in narrowing the field to about three candidates.

EC2C’s Operation Team, representatives of Advocates for Action (a parent group), and EC2C’s staff will then use the profile in interviews with the final candidates and in making a recommendation to the HRC.

The HRC will make the final decision, hopefully by the end of April or beginning of May, said Ms. Jones and Ms. Demorest.

EC2C is built on the premise of “collective impact” – that schools, institutions, community organizations, business groups, and others can have a greater impact by working together to address complex social and educational issues than working alone.

Larry Gavin

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...