Who will be the next D65 superintendent?

Now that upwards of 60 applicants have been vetted, narrowed down to five finalists, and each has had a chance to be grilled by faculty, administrators, parents, and interested citizens, the final round begins for the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board to select a superintendent to recommend decisions that will have a major effect on thousands of young lives.

One candidate, Nathan McCann, has already pulled out of the race and has accepted an offer  from a school district in the small town of Ridgefield, Wash., just north of Portland, Ore.

Here are the remaining four candidates, listed in the order that they were presented in public forums last week at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School:

 Julie Glazer

She is a former teacher at Lincolnwood Elementary School from 1997 to 2002 who moved to New Jersey due to her husband’s job change. She is currently assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, from pre-kindergarten through high school, at the Summit, N.J., Public Schools.

She holds a Master of Arts degree in Teaching and Learning from DePaul University and is earning her doctorate in Educational Leadership at Saint Peters University in Jersey City, N.J.

Her district in Summit consists of nine schools, with 4,100 students, 630 staff members, and an approximate budget of $65 million.

Glazer says she has “initiated a program of on-going assessment analysis, including the evaluation of standardized testing results and have become skilled at using data systems to track achievement and student progress.”

Paul Goren

A 16-year resident of Evanston with three children working their way through Oakton Elementary School, Chute Middle School, and Evanston Township High School, he has 25 years of experience with urban school systems, including San Diego, Calif., Minneapolis, Minn., and Chicago.

Goren is currently senior vice president for program at CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, in Chicago.

He says he has “national and international experience designing education policy, addressing achievement gaps, managing school district finances, promoting healthy child development, helping make data more usable, and improving teaching and learning."

Goren holds a masters degree in Public Affairs from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. from the Stanford University School of Education.

Quintin Shepherd

A former music teacher who rose through the ranks as principal and superintendent of schools in downstate Amboy, Ill., he is superintendent of Skokie/Morton Grove District 69 and asserts that his knowledge of how the system works in Illinois and, specifically, in Cook County, gives him an edge.

When he came to Skokie/Morton Grove in 2010, he said, achievement scores were sliding and the financial situation of the district was precarious.

By working closely with the board and the community, Shepherd said, the district was able to reverse the declining scores and to put its finances on a strong foundation.

His community involvement has earned him a “Rotarian of the Year” designation and asserts he has established strong working relationships with the Skokie business community and serves on the Community Council of Youth Organizations Umbrella.

Marty K. Smith

He is assistant superintendent of a cluster of 22 schools with 22,000 students in Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools outside of Washington, D.C.

“My primary responsibilities,” he says, “include hiring effective principals, promoting collaborative practices among K-12 principals, and engaging with community stakeholders.”

Smith is working on his Doctor of Education degree in Education Learning and Policy Studies at Virginia Tech.

A native Iowan, Smith began his teaching career as a 2nd grade teacher and has served as a school principal. He says he implores his principals to think innovatively and to become more collaborative.

All four of the candidates claim to be collaborative administrators who have been involved in their communities and have ideas for helping the district deal with the achievement gap between students of various racial and cultural backgrounds.

The board plans to make its final decision in April, with the new superintendent assuming full duties in July. He or she will be taking the job formerly held by Hardy Murphy, who resigned last August.

Board President Tracy Quattrocki has asked the public to offer their opinions to the board on filling the vacancy.

Related stories:

Native Iowan has his sights set on Evanston schools

His job: Protect super heroes

Goren combines local roots with national expertise

Glazer: Curricular development extends through high school

 

 

 

Comments

Employee of Shepherd sets the record straight

 

I've read comments on the superintendent choices, and I'd like to set the record straight on a few of the comments about Dr. Shepherd. I have worked in District 69 for 3 and a half years under Dr. Shepherd as a speech-language pathologist, first in the middle school and now in the pre-school/grade school building.

When Dr. Shepherd first became superintendent of D69, the district had 30 days of operating funds. 30 days! To put this in perspective, the district was on the verge of bankruptcy.  The previous superintendent raised taxes two times, and he had quickly burnt through the money.  

Within a few years, Dr. Shepherd managed to balance the budget, and earn financial recognition from the state of Illinois.  He also managed to negotiate teacher pay increases tied to the consumer price index. Teacher salaries are the number one cost to any district.   The benefit of tying raises to CPI is that house prices/resulting property taxes are one of the major indices used to calculate CPI. As more property taxes come into a district, the teachers will make more. As less money is available, teachers make less. It keeps the budget balanced without asking endlessly for more taxes from a cash strapped community.

We all view the arts as sacred. But when faced with the choice of closing schools or cutting some services. What do you do?   The taxpayers would not have supported yet another increase in taxes. We had just come off of one of the worst recessions in history.  They couldn’t afford it!

So Shepherd chose to squeeze pennies and downsize as needed to make do with the money that the property taxes supported.   Art teachers were cut, and parent volunteers came in to lead art workshops in the classrooms. PE teachers and music teachers carried double class loads, and in some cases travelled between several schools. In special education, our caseloads went up, and we worked with more children.  Was it easy? No!  Everyone felt the pinch and most of us grumbled at some point or another. 
 
But we survived.

And the children prospered. The state came in and said the previous superintendent was out of compliance for the special education process and that the staff didn’t keep good enough records.  A new fantastic special education director was hired, and she brought us into 100% compliance within a year.   We overhauled our curriculum in reading and math, and our test scores went up, earning us state recognition.

At a time when 62% of schools in Ilinois are deficit spending,including WIlmette, Kenilworth and WInnetka, Skokie has a balanced budget where we only spend what the property taxes support every year. (I am not sure about Evanston, as Hardy Murphy appeared to massage the numbers so much.) 

Now that the economic outlook is looking up for the next year, we are hiring more staff. This past year, we already added on more PE teachers and music teachers. Next year, we are adding more special education staff and fine arts.

I have a good working relationship with Dr. Shepherd. In a one-one setting, I view him as someone who is very well read and excited about making things happen.  In a large group, he is very much like a politician. 

Personally, he has been very supportive of letting the teachers, including me, try new initiatives.  When I worked with grades 3-5, he supported us in building a greenhouse to support our life skills program.   In the past two years, he’s supported a partner and I in developing a new process for identifying pre-k and Kindergarten children who can decode (read the words), but later fail to develop adequate reading comprehension skills.  Language skills in pre-K and kindergarten are directly correlated to reading comprehension in grade 5. However, in Skokie, like in all  linguistically and socioeconomically diverse schools across  the country, it’s hard to differentiate language difference (meaning learning English) from language disorder (as in trouble learning language).  We brought this problem to Shepherd, and he paid us as part of a “study group initiative” to gather research on our own non-school  time and to create a language benchmark tool to assess the entire pre-K and kindergarten in four areas correlated to reading comprehension success.    We used the data to place kids into interventions, because we don’t believe that we should wait until kids fail before doing something.  In D69, we want to help kids as early as possible.  Our benchmark project was so successful, that we partnered with Eastern Illinois University to validate our process and tool.  We are now sharing the results with districts all over the country. This started in D69: www.sl3lab.com

One of the reasons that I chose to work in pre-K in Skokie is that I’m very passionate about preventing an achievement gap.  The longest running study on the achievement gap by Hart and Risley proved that by the time a child is 3, there is a 30 million word gap between a child living in a home with a college educated parent compared to a child living in a home where a parent receives welfare. The amount of language you hear in early childhood is directly correlated to IQ scores at age 8!   http://www.lenababy.com/Study.aspx  

   This is not new research, but it’s always been a question of what to do about it!  There is a new technology called LENA.  Providence, RI received a large grant from the Bill Gates Foundation to try out this technology.

Read about it here http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/the-power-of-talking-to-...

   In Skokie, we created a pilot parent training program using this software this year, with the hopes of expanding it to our entire state funded at-risk pre-K next year.  Under Shepherd’s approval, we are one of the first public schools in the country to try this out of the box way to close the achievement gap, by preventing one from forming in the first place.

 Shepherd didn’t  talk about the specifics of things at his public forums.  But we are making great things happen in Skokie.  I think Shepherd got the ball moving in Skokie, and he’s ready for the next challenge. 
 

Not yet ready for Evanston

Jen, your comments about Shepherd make me feel that many gut reactions of people were right. What he did in Skokie might have worked for you, but overall, his presentation was not as good as the others. He simply lacks experience in teaching and leading large, diverse schools.

We need someone who will unite the teachers , administrators, school board and the community. What he has done in D69 is something that won't work in Evanston. You can't take a plan that involved 3 schools, 90-95 teachers and 1,700 students and replicate it for a district with 18 schools, 600+ teachers and 7,800+ students and a $100 million budget.

This next challenge he needs is to either stay in 69 and continue the work he started and then maybe move on to a slightly larger district. In my opinion, he is not ready for Evanston. At 36 years old he has accomplished a lot and he has made some tough decisions and for that I compliment him. But as an evanston resident, I just don't feel like he fits our desired profile. And when you compare him to the other candidates, he does not come up at the top.  He might be considered 'local' but he is in a very qualified pool of candidates and from my view, he is not the strongest choice to be our next leader. 

Respectfully disagree

Hi Gene,

 Thanks for your response. Also, thanks to all the school board members. They have spent countless hours interviewing candidates and community members. I'm confident that they will chose whoever is the best fit for Evanston.

I respectfully disagree with your sentiments on Dr. Shepherd. For one, Skokie is more diverse than Evanston in languages spoken at home, race, and socioeconomics. Of course there is no one size fits all model of reform, and Shepherd did state that not everything that he's done in Skokie may work in Evanston.

Like Skokie a few years ago, Evanston schools also face a budget crisis in the next few years. Read about this here

Illinois legislators are also discussing shifting teacher pensions onto local school districts, which would further cripple D65 financial outlook. Read about this here  

Not one of the other candidates have lived through this. They all can talk hypothetically about what they might do to solve budgeting difficulties, but Shepherd has lead diverse school districts through economic crisis, twice.  I believe he has done it successfully. In the case of Skokie, the children's mean academic performance has actually gone up during the time of economic crisis.   Do we want a leader who can talk or a leader who can do? 

As for your claim that Shepherd doesn’t have enough experience, none of the other candidates have ever even been a superintendent.  Shepherd is the only one with a proven track record. I believe that Evanston needs leadership that is prepared to make difficult decisions, because we will face them in the next few years. 

Experience

I guess we both agree to disagree.  You are obviously a huge fan. But remember, titles don't define a person. Glazer and Smith manage more schools and a larger budget then shepherd. All I really said that based on their presentations and experience, shepherd, in my opinion is not the strongest candidate. This is also not the first time this year he was a finalist. He was a finalist in another  suburban district and was in the top 3-5 pick and did not get it. So again, I just think he needs more experience with a larger size district. 

With that said, let's just all wish all of them the best. The board has worked hard on this and I hope they listen to the feedback and listen to each other.