When Quintin Shepherd’s daughter entered kindergarten, she spoke of her teacher as if she were a super hero. Now that he’s a superintendent, Shepherd says his job is often to protect super heroes. Currently superintendent of the Skokie/Morton Grove School District 69, Shepherd is one of five finalists for superintendent of Evanston/Skokie School District 65, and Thursday was his turn to face the public in a forum at King Lab.
He told his audience that he began teaching music to all grades, from kindergarten through high school.
“It’s a great way to know kids,” he said.
Next, he became principal of an elementary school, then principal of a high school, and then superintendent in downstate Amboy, Ill.
“Nothing can prepare you better for the job of superintendent than being a superintendent,” he declared. And if the job is in Illinois or Cook County, he added, it’s beneficial to select someone who has been a superintendent in Illinois or Cook County.
When a teacher has a problem, he said, he goes to his principal. When the principal has a problem, he goes to other principals or to his superintendent. But when a superintendent has a problem, it’s a big help to be able to have established relationships with other superintendents, Shepherd said, adding, “I’ve established relationships with practically every superintendent in Cook County.”
Shepherd has been the superintendent in Skokie/Morton Grove for the past four years, having taken over at a time when test scores were sliding and finances were perilous, he said.
Four years later, he says, students in his district have seen remarkable gains in proficiency levels and the district has met its five-year financial goal for building up its financial reserves.
The financing of public schools in Cook County is out of balance, he says, as there is a tax cap on local revenues determined by the cost-of-living index, while expenses are under no such limits.
The upshot is that when the economy improves, there is a two-year lag before revenues begin to catch up with soaring expenses.
In that case, he says, he holds “conversations” with his unions to enlist their cooperation in riding out financial difficulties. He cautioned, however, that what works in District 69 is not necessarily going to work in District 65.
“But it can be done,” he said.
Shepherd was the fourth of the five finalists for the position held until last August by Hardy Murphy, who resigned suddenly.
Friday night’s presenter will be Marty Smith, assistant superintendent of the Cluster 1 schools in the Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools.
Smith received his B.A. degree in elementary education from the University of Iowa in 1993 and his M.A. degree in education leadership from George Mason University in 1999.
He is working on his doctorate in education leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech.
Under his direction are 22,000 students in three high schools, three middle schools, and 16 elementary schools in Herndon, Langley, and McLean, Va.
Smith describes himself as a “collaborative and visionary leader with 20 years of educational experience, including classroom teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent.”
His presentation is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. in the auditorium of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School at 2424 Lake St.