How do you find someone to lead your elementary and middle schools if you’re not yet sure you know what you want him/her to do? That’s the issue facing the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board.

This was supposed to be the year that the district would develop a new strategic plan—a document that specifies in writing the district’s dreams and ambitions and turns them into quantifiable strategies for implementation.

The board talked about it briefly at its regular monthly meeting Monday night.

Candance Chow, a newly elected board member who is a critical player in the strategic planning process, said she feels it would be a mistake to put the process on hold until a new superintendent is chosen to replace Hardy Murphy, who resigned effective Aug. 9 after 13 years in the position.

One of the reasons Murphy resigned now, according to Board President Tracy Quattrocki, was that the strategic planning process was ready to begin and the superintendent is a key player in that process.

But Chow and others on the board, including past president Katie Bailey and Finance Committee Chair Richard Rhykus, agreed that the visioning part of the plan, involving parents, teachers, administrators, and taxpayers (not to mention the students themselves), should be effectively intertwined with the search for the new superintendent.

The next step is to name an interim superintendent, who may or may not also be a candidate for the permanent position.

Apparently the board has narrowed its choices for the interim chief, as Quattrocki said she hopes to announce the selection within the next week or so.

Then a consultant from the Illinois Association of School Boards is expected to meet with the District 65 Board to counsel them on best practices for engaging in the superintendent search.

The upshot is that the strategic planning process is likely to face some delays but that the visioning element involving the district’s stakeholders will be launched sooner, rather than later.

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. The current strategic plan

    The current strategic plan ends at the end of this school year.  It takes time to develop it and so it makes sense to start it now before the current one runs out. It can be done with the input of the people in the district and community who are most familiar with the needs to be addressed. This will help candidates for the Superintendent to understand the issues and there will still be time to fine tune.  If this person comes from outside the district he/she will have a learning curve anyway in getting to know the district.

  2. Suggestion for Strategic Planning and Supt. Search


    Begin the strategic planning process with "pre-assessment" phase that involves all the things that such planning should involve anyway (e.g., surveying stakeholders). When the new supt. is hired, he or she will have access to the data from the phase and can begin his or her tenure in earnest with formulating the actual plan and putting it on paper. Ideally, superintendent candidates would have access to some prelminary data/input from stakeholders–and well as other critial information about the district–and part of the interview process would involve the candidates describing what he or she would actually do in the next phase of planning, based on his/her analysis of the data, or participation in the data-gathering process.  So, effectively, It's a performance assessment for the would-be superintendents that allows them to contextualize their vision in specific terms.


    P.S. I know many school districts and companies use the term "strategic plan" but isn't that redundant? Are we implementing other plans that are devoid of strategy? Hope not!

  3. A superintendent for $1 a year

    By the powers invested in me, I declare that this will be the forever strategic plan for District 65:

    1.)  Teachers will have the authority and responsibility to use fear as the greatest motivator for changes to unacceptable behavior in their classrooms.

    2.)  Parents who do not participate or show any concen for their childs education will lose all welfare benefits.   Parents who are self supporting will have their names published in the local media outlets and have DCFS as a regular visitor to their homes and places of work.

    3.)  Every spring, all classes will go on two mandatory field trips, one to Pontiac Prision and the Second to the University of Chicago (sorry,  Northwestern).

    4.)  All children will be dressed in a uniform manner.  Each school will be allowed to choose the mandatory color of the uniform.  This works very well for the military because it shows the individual that they are only a small part of something that is much bigger than themselves.

    5.)  Students will be taught that all work is good,  and that it is important that each child is guided to an occupation that, if they can achieve it,  will turn out to be more of a labor of love than a job.  

    6.)  District 65 will have only one objective:  THE BEST EDUCATION THAT MONEY CANNOT BUY!

    With this plan, I submit my application for the next Superintendent  of District 65.  (For legal purposes, I will require a stipend of $1.00 per year).  I thank you for your support and consideration.


  4. My two cents

    Four Strategic Goals that come to mind:

    1.)  Consolidate the school districts. Too much money spent on duplicative administrative services.  Heck, getting rid of one superintendent would free up around $250,000.  That would probably allow the city to hire 4 or 5 more teachers.

    2.)  Evanston needs to reach out to poor and/or single parent families when there is a newborn.  I'd rather see some funds saved from #1 above to help these families raise those newborns.  The help would be in the form of books/reading/talking time with the newborn, as well as, toys with educational bent to them and even food assistance — nutrition for newborns is extremely important.

    3.)  Nutrition.  The schools need to offer more nutritious and healthier food products to the students.  With a better diet, I bet the students perform better in school.

    4.)  Hire better teachers, don't be afraid to let go of the bad ones.

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