The room was set for considerably more, but only seven community members showed up Monday night for the first of four forums designed to determine the public’s views about the new superintendent of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school system.

The setting was the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, located in the heart of Evanston’s 5th Ward.

On hand to moderate the session was Pamela K. Hollich, a former school superintendent and an associate with the HYA Executive Search firm that was hired to help the district scour the country for the best possible replacement for Hardy Murphy, who resigned abruptly as the district’s chief last August.

The firm is conducting 17 focus group meetings, Hollich said, with various district stakeholders, including teachers, principals, support personnel, and community leaders, but these forums were to be the instrument for obtaining the views of parents and other community members.

It all leads up to a presentation to the board at its December 16 meeting of the draft of a profile that would describe the kind of person the district should be seeking to fill the top post in the system.

The participants Monday night painted a picture of a leader who knows how to evaluate teachers, uses data to make decisions, utilizes available community resources such as Northwestern University, a manager who does not micromanage, and one who values teaching that promotes learning rather than teaching to score higher on standardized tests.

One participant summed it up succinctly: “The new superintendent needs to have the ability to walk on water.”

Three additional public forums are scheduled for this week: tonight at the district headquarters at 1500 McDaniel Ave., Wednesday afternoon at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School, 2424 Lake St., and Thursday at Chute Middle School  (with a Spanish language interpreter), 1400 Oakton St.

The Wednesday session is scheduled during the middle of the day, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., while the Tuesday and Thursday sessions are in the evening, beginning at 7 p.m.

The public is also invited to participate in an online survey. At Monday’s School Board meeting, President Tracy Quattrocki reported that the consultants had told her that some 700 persons had already completed the survey and that another 200 had started the survey but had not yet completed it.

She also said that 24 persons had applied for the superintendent’s position, even though it has not yet been advertised in the national education trade media.

The board spent considerable time at the meeting wordsmithing a draft of the help-wanted application that is scheduled for publication shortly.

If all goes as planned, the new superintendent will be selected by April 1 and will assume fulltime duties on or about July 1, 2014.

Related story:

D65 board revs up super search

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Terrible timing

    Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas…I'm surprised you got 7 people at the forum.  And I can't believe such a schedule would encourage the Community that the forum was anything more than window dressing.  What we want in our new Sup't is an intelligent administrator with good judgement and good people skills and a strong vision for success in our schools going forward.  Tell us how you plan to find such a person, and we'll let you know what we think of your plan.

    1. Thank you District 65 School Board

      I was one of the 7 people who attended the forum at Fleetwood Jourdain. I appreciate the opportunity that the School Board has given the community to share their perspective (if you so choose) about this important decision. The School Board has given community members ample opportunity to give our opinion; surveys, community forums – 4 public and 17 focus groups. Yes, this time of year is busy, but if it's important to you, take the time and let your voice be heard. Ultimately, it's the Board's decision, but they are trying to reach all parts of the community to get many different perspectives. Or just e-mail the Board and share your view.

  2. School Superintendent Forums

    Apparently there were over 20 people at last night's forum and there were  a dozen or so at today's.  This is not the only way to submit information about the process. Filling out the survey on the school district web site is a very effective way for individuals to be heard and over 700 people have already done this. The Dec. 10th deadline for doing so is fast approaching. Sure, it is a busy time of the year and we all have more than enough to do, but what is more important than the education of our community's children? Please take the time to make yourself heard.

  3. D65 & D202 Opportunity to Consolidate

    It's great they are offering these forums, but it is difficult to make it given the times and the holidays.  The district also emailed a survey so people that couldn't make the forums had a chance to be heard.  I also saw a link to a petition that is on the "District 65 Parents" page on Facebook and is advocating for consolidation.  A lot of people seem excited about this idea, but it never gains momentum.  Now seems like a very good opportunity to explore the idea more deeply!

    1. Witherspoon as superintendent of both districts? No way!

      D65 parent,

      The petition you mention is for Eric Witherspoon to serve as superintendent for both D65 and D202.

      As a D65 parent, I say –  No thank you! 

      Witherspoon detracked freshmen honors because he said there were too many "white faces" in honor classes and he's OK with the controversial PEG.

      It's interesting you didn't mention the petition was for Witherspoon to be the new superintendent of both districts. Most Evanstonians like me support school consolidation but not Witherspoon leading both districts.

      The petition was started by three Niles North High School administrators. 

      One of the petition authors, Keith Robinson, now serves on the Foundation 65 Board. Another is Corrie Wallace, D219's newly created position, Director of Equity. I guess there's an inequity problem at D219. Wallace hosted a coffee event at her home last March for D202 candidate, Pat Savage Williams – a staunch PEG supporter. It's one of those things that make you go hmmm?

      Sunlight is the best disenfectant. This info was easy to find. Parents need to pay closer attention and vote accordingly because a small vocal and powerful minority some of whom work and live outside of Evanston have an inequitable influence in our schools and government.


      1. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

        Yes, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." Accurate, complete, and unbiased information combined with thorough analysis leads to better decisions. But that's not the way Evanston works. Look at City Council and their decision against providing safety for all ETHS students. Look at Dr. Witherspoon's continued advocacy of the Pacific Education Group and the process he used to make other changes at ETHS. Unbiased? – no way! – Present one side of the story that fits his agenda. Teachers who disagree are not heard.

        It's interesting to know that 3 Niles North High School Administrators created this petition. What's their motivation?

        Anonymous Al, I don't always agree with your views, but I like the fact that you don't just drink the E-Town "Kool-Aid" and you bring a different perspective to important issues. Evanston needs more people like you who are willing to dig up information and get facts. I travel for work and can't pay attention to all the happenings around town.

        1. D65/D202 Consolidation Response

          Yikes, Anonymous Al! I'm not sure why you're being so reactive.  I haven't even signed the petition. I was merely mentioning an alternative way to get involved with the superintendant search because commenters were complaining about how the district forums were scheduled at difficult times.  I also mentioned the survey that D65 sent out via email as a way to get involved.

          I'm still mulling over the idea of Witherspoon leading both.  I've done a lot of looking around myself.  The PEG advocacy raises some concerns for me.  However, the Earned Honors program is fantastic.  The only thing D202 did wrong was not having a better organized publicity campaign before it rolled out.  The negative buzz is very misinformed and short-sided.  I was skeptical at first, but after speaking with a myriad of parents whose children are at the HS, attending one of the "Community Conversation" series with Witherspoon and seeing the rising scores, I feel very comfortable and even excited for my future Wildkit to experience this kind of innovative approach to education and bridging the achievement gap.

          Also, I thank you for the info on the authors of the petition.  I didn't have that information.  The only name I recognized was Corrie Wallace, who may currently be a D219 employee, but she is also a D65 and D202 parent, an ETHS grad and former ETHS teacher.  While, as I mentioned above, I'm not entirely sold on the PEG approach, I'm guessing Ms. Wallace, as a ETHS grad, former employee and parent, has some firsthand experience and insights about the inequities and race issues that have exsisted at the HS for a very long time.

          I'm an ETHS grad too and I was in honors and AP classes.  My fellow students in those honors and AP classes were not at all representative of the overall ETHS population.  Is that because minorities are inferior? Of course not.  It's because the playing field isn't level.  Education, especially public education, has a mission to keep the bar high and to help all students reach for that bar.  I can see why people would explore an option like PEG. 

          Long story short, I think consolidation is important to explore now.  I think Witherspoon is worth at least considering because knows this community, has past experience leading a consolidated school district and has been an innovative leader rather than accepting the status quo.

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