Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board member Sharon Sheehan has resigned.

The resignation came two days after Ms. Sheehan ended up on the losing side of a board vote to extend Superintendent Hardy Murphy’s contract to 2012.

Ms. Sheehan, who has sharply criticized the superintendent’s performance since her election to the board in 2005, said in a resignation letter that it’s now apparent that the change she sought in the schools “will not come.”

She criticized what she called failed leadership policies that she said have led 500 students to leave the district for private schools.

And she claimed that her fellow board members and the district administration have settled for “good enough” when the district’s children deserve the highest quality eduction.

In a news release issued today, School Board President Mary Erickson said Ms. Sheehan was a dedicated board member, diligent in serving the Evanston/Skokie community, who demonstrated professionalism in her board responsibilities. 

“I have always valued her analytical ability, and it is unfortunate that Ms. Sheehan has decided to resign at this time,” Ms. Erickson was quoted as saying.

The six remaining school board members will name a successor within 45 days to fill out Ms. Sheehan’s term until the 2009 school board election. Persons interested in the position can submit resumes and letters of interest addressed to Ms. Erickson at the District Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave. in Evanston.

At next Monday’s meeting the board plans to discuss the process and timeline for filling the vacancy.

Under the state school code, a candidate must be a registered voter who has lived in the district for at least a year. Current school treasurers and trustees and child sex offenders are barred from holding the job. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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16 Comments

  1. Ms. Sheehan’s letter to the Evanston community
    Dear Members of the District 65 Community:

    In April 2005, more than 6500 Evanston/Skokie voters elected me to the
    District 65 Board of Education on a message of “Vote for Change.” It
    is now apparent that, despite my best efforts and those of by far the
    top vote-getters in the last three school board elections, change will
    not come. Because, under these circumstances, I cannot fulfill the
    mission I was elected to pursue, I am hereby tendering my resignation
    as a member of the District 65 Board of Education.

    I came to this Board with the expectation that District 65 could
    indeed be “the Lighthouse District,” that it could provide its
    students with outstanding educational leadership. I was naive enough
    to think that we could have leadership that actually relied on sound
    information and judgment to plan ahead for the fiscal and
    instructional needs of our district. I believed — and I still
    believe — that we can do better than a leadership that lets more than
    500 students leave our district virtually unacknowledged, with no
    analysis of the causes and no planning for the consequences. I
    believed — and I still believe — that we can do better than a
    leadership that watches our technology age into obsolescence and then
    suddenly asks for millions of dollars while saying, “Give us the money
    and we’ll show you a plan.”

    I have been told that my expectations for our district are too high.
    I do not believe that we can ever expect too much for the education of
    our children. We may not achieve all that we aim for, but that is no
    excuse for not aiming high. Sadly, this is not the prevailing view
    among either the elected or the appointed leadership of this district.
    I cannot accept that what we have is “good enough” and still remain
    true to my personal ideals and to those who elected me to pursue them.

    The highest quality education is, and long has been, the focus of my
    aspirations. I will continue to pursue such excellence in my
    professional career as a teacher, where, I now know, unlike my
    position as a board member, I can have some hope of success.

    Sincerely,

    Sharon Sheehan

    1. Thanks for your service
      Dear Sharon,

      I’m one of those folks who elected you in 2005, because, like you, I believe that our children deserve more in terms of an education than what is deemed “good enough” by the board majority and administation. I can appreciate your frustration in dealing with an administration for which “discredit, delay, divide, and deny” are the watchwords. Please accept my thanks for striving for the past 2 years to move the district “Forward to (True) Excellence”. I certainly hope that the students you reach on a daily basis realize what a role model they have, and I hope that the administrators that you work for aid your quest for personal and professional excellence.

      Sincerely,

      Pat Pint

  2. District 65 continues it current downward spiral
    This is bad – in the last election no one ran for a second term, now a board member quits. This is a mess.

    District 65 is continuing its downward spiral to a inner city school district.

  3. D-65 Superintendent contract extension
    John Brinkmann

    I can’t understand the logic behind extending Hardy Murphy’s contract before his current contract expires–whats the point?…I mean no disrespect to Dr. Murphy being I like the guy but there’s clearly many people who are not overly enthralled with his leadershp nor too happy about how things are being run at D-65…As with most Evanston public institutions, costs are running way out of control—As tax payers funding the run away freight train also known as business as usual in Evanston, we must take a serious look at what were getting in return?…Voter apathy is rampant in Evanston where I think the figure is around 30% of all registered voters even take the time to cast a ballot in school board elections—It’s highly unfortunate Ms. Sheehan chose to resign her post as a member of the Board but I don’t blame her one bit…In my opinion she clearly stood by her convictions to oversee changes were to be made and these changes were in line with what the majority is looking for—Where are these people now?–Why do we continually sit by and allow small support groups to dictate policy?—Because no one bothers to stick their neck out to support people like Ms. Sheehan!…As Ms. Sheehan points out, “we can never aim to high”. And for the money being shelled out, we should demand better leadership and results…Best of luck to you Ms Sheehan in all your future endeavours and thank you for all your efforts.

    1. Everyone needs to do more to improve school system
      I have a different view on this matter as a person who does not have much insight on school board officials and politics. I do not know the job performance of Ms. Sheehan and Mr. Murphy. Please read as one opinion from neutral third party who wishes for improvement of school system for own children who are planning to attend public school in Evanston in near future.

      It seems very strange to me that the public is putting all blame on one single person for average school performance and reason for student leaving.

      I find it hard to believe that a single can destroy or establish an organization. In order for organization to improve or deteriorate significantly, the majority of organization members must have impact on outcome one way of another. If the public or the school board members are depending on one single person to turn things around, such organization will unlikely see any positive changes in any near future.

      Even if you put the best of the best leader on Superintendent’s position, a single person will not be able to make significant improvement without commitment and 100% effort from all school officials.

      It is a fact of matter that the average performing or poor performance individual exist in any organization and place you work. But organization will fail if you place a single person responsible for performance of organization.

      Regardless of how bad my manager is at work, it is up to me how I impact to company that I work for. If I get a responsibility to make positive change in the system and could not make any positive impact, then it is my failure. Even it I have a bad manager or CEO, it is up to me to make positive impact with in my capability. Can I just resign and blame on CEO for my inability to make positive impact? Such an action seems to be lacking accountability. Everyone must sense the accountability for positive impact in healthy organization.

      Why is it that the public is applauding a person who resigns or quit in the middle of duty even if she did not deliver the commitment made to public? It seems to be that all blame is getting put on to Superintendent for school performance as she left office. What about her accountability to make positive impact to school system?

      The perception from public is that Ms. Sheehan has no responsibility for not able to improve the system but all responsibility goes to Superintendent who is to be blamed. And that the system is not improving because Superintendent performs in “Good Enough” level. It may be in fact that Ms. Sheehan has contributed tremendously and put a lot of effort to make a change. But the bottom line is that the school system is not improving and every single official at School board needs to share the accountability, including Ms. Sheehan.

      I would rather have school officials who will not quit but give 100% of effort to make improvements in their capability regardless of how good or bad Superintendent is. I want school officials who strive to make positive impact to school system in whatever she or he is capable of. That is the kind of school officials I would like to vote for so that my own children can attend public school ran by officials committed to make improvement with 100% of effort individually. I do not really want officials who quit in the middle of public obligation and commitment. After all, if employee quits organization, she or he can no longer provide any impact to the organization. Why do I want school officials who can not commit 100% of public duty sworn to serve?

      As long as we put a whole responsibility and accountability of system improvement on single person, such organization will unlikely see any improvement. Change will happen only when all responsible officials accountable to make positive impact without putting blames on others. Regardless of how good or bad performance your peers or leadership may be, they are a part of organization who you need to find the way to make positive change together as organization. All organization member shares collective responsibility.

      I hope that every single school officials re-think if they have 100% commitment to make school system to improve instead of finding escape goat. It is easy to point fingers to others but it is not easy to take a look at yourself to see if you can do better.

      The same accountability goes to those parents who escapes to private school without putting any effort to make positive impact to public school system. Sure if you can afford it, it is easy way out and it is no longer your business. How about others who can not affort private school?

      This goes to not only school officials but to all parents who have capability to provide positive impact to school system but have not stepped up. This goes to all public who cares and hopes for improvement of school system but have not provided much support. This goes to myself who needs to step up to make positive impact so that my own children can get a great education.

      It is not other’s business. It is your own business. We are all responsible to make positive impact. It is not a responsibility for one single person in Evanston.

      Sorry for long comments but I had a lot to say about this since I was very disappointed.

      1. To Kenga Baba:As you admit,
        To Kenga Baba:

        As you admit, you are a person who does not have much insight on school board officials and politics. You also admit that you do not know the job performance of Ms. Sheehan and Mr. Murphy. Unfortunately, your posting reflects that lack of insight and lack of the facts. So please allow me to give you some facts.

        The head employee of the school district is doing, in many people’s opinion, a mediocre job. One Board member, or even two, are powerless to convince the “yes” men and women on the Board (now numbering four…a majority) otherwise. “Good enough” for our children is good enough for the Superintendent and the “yes” men and women on the Board. That is sad.

        That Board member, after two years of working extremely hard, had to face the fact that the “yes” men and women are in the majority and no change will be possible. I would have given up, too, as the other Board members sold out many of those who voted for them. The voters trusted that these candidates, as Board members, would hold the Superintendent accountable for the mediocre system that we have.

        There are hundreds of people — parents, teachers and staff — working hard to help the District and its students achieve. You could learn something and contribute if you got involved.

        If you’re disappointed, think about the people who actually have children in the District, are working hard to help them achieve but the District keeps failing their children. They are really disappointed.

        1. How can people get more involved?
          Thanks for your insight.

          Since my kids are not attending school yet I have not gotten involved on public school matters.

          I would like to get more insight on this matter. How can a parent get more involved and work with School administrators?

          Is there any organized forum or meetings that people can get involved with to voice opinions and have discussions with school officials? Is there any way for the public to express their concerns to school officals face to face?

          1. Involvement
            Mr. Baba:

            At the end of the last d65 board meeting October 1st, discussion took place as to how board members could potentially make themselves more accessible to the community and parents.

            The first forum/town hall meeting is being planned before ’07 ends.

            If you have not already done so, you can visit http://www.d65.k12.il.us and browse.

            To the left of the home page, click on the link that reads “Board of Education.” Then click on “Board Member Information.” If you choose, send your thoughts,concerns or questions to schoolboard@district 65.net. Thereby, messages will be received by all board members at once.

            The meetings are opened to the public. Or you can access scheduled board meetings on cable channel 19. The next regular d65 board meeting is scheduled for October 15th.

  4. The schools must do better
    The District 65 Administration should visit other districts to see how they may be doing. Heck, they could even walk over to District 202 to see how they do a better job of it! They should have the ideas and demonstrate the leadership required to be at the top of our region. The School Board is a group of generalists. They should set policy. The School Board are not the experts in education. They approve,or not, the policy.

    The administration should have the expertise as educators – people in the business of education. Where is that leadership? If we don’t have creativity, knowledge, expertise, then we need to get it.

    Our children – all of them deserve no less. Let’s face it – the school districts get over 60% of our taxes. That is incredible. With this much of our collective resources, we should have high expectations for all of the educators from each and every teacher right up through to our Superintendent.

    Here is a link to a recent article that appeared October 2, 2007 in the NY Times by a guy named Bob Herbert, an Op-Ed Columnist entitled “The Schools Must Do Better”.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/02/opinion/02herbert.html?em&ex=1191556800&en=8e3feac24c1c22a7&ei=5087

    Why don’t we revisit the topic of a combined school district? It is crazy to me that we have 2 districts to cover the same student body. Let us put our resources into one administration and stop this nonsense.

    1. Why don’t we revisit the
      Why don’t we revisit the topic of a combined school district? It is crazy to me that we have 2 districts to cover the same student body. Let us put our resources into one administration and stop this nonsense.

      My understanding for the reason, or at least part of the reason, for not having a combined school district is because the High School District 202 covers part of Skokie; where District 65 is only Evanston. The Skokie residents who live within District 202 do not reside in District 65.

      I will also add, and this is not directed at your comment Ms. Feldon – this is just a statement in addition to your comment about the BOE. The School Board members are voted on by the residents of the districts. So those are the people that are supposed to be representing the communities feelings. If we as a community do not agree with what they are doing, how they are handling the business of the district then they should not be re-elected. Elect board members that are not pro-Hardy Murphy and are pro-students and school.

      1. There may be reasons, but that is not one of them
        “My understanding for the reason, or at least part of the reason, for not having a combined school district is because the High School District 202 covers part of Skokie; where District 65 is only Evanston. The Skokie residents who live within District 202 do not reside in District 65.”

        I would tend to agree with you about reconsidering the decision about having 2 separate school districts. However, the reason above is not one of them. Both districts take in the same land in both Evanston and Skokie. In fact, #65’s Bessie Rhoades Magnet and Walker Schools are located in Skokie. And the kids from Walker go to middle school at Chute.

        Some group many years ago did a cost-benefit analysis on the issue. I don’t remember the details, but whether or not there are savings is not quite as clear cut as we would like to imagine. And there were numerous challenges involved with trying to merge the 2 separate pay structures. It may not be insurmountable, but it was going to take quite a bit of planning and community consensus to accomplish a merger. I am not sure that the latter is currently in place.

  5. Contract Extension justified by improved test scores
    This week we learned from the Roundtable article “Report Prompts Board Ire About Low Minority Representation in ETHS Honors Classes” that students need only reach 36th percentile on ISATs to “meet standards”. Today’s article in the Tribune explains that “…Illinois sets the second-lowest passing bar on its grade school math tests, higher only than Colorado. The state’s 8th grade Math tests is the least challenging, the study revealed.” And four Board members have granted Dr. Murphy a 5-year, no-strings-attached contract extension based on improved test scores and a balanced budget (although you project a 2 million deficit for the next school year)?! Members of D65 School Board of Education, you should be ashamed.

    1. District 65 School Board Should be Ashamed…But They Aren’t
      No wonder Hardy Murphy was in such a hurry to get his 5-year iron-clad guaranteed big payment. This is catastrophic news. And there is certainly more to follow.

      The School Board, in its rush to do exactly what the Superintendent told them to do, has given away the store. They now work for him. They (and we) are powerless to have any real achievement in this District.

      Instead, we must settle for “good enough.” Or maybe we should call it “achievement lite.”

      The School Board is populated by a majority of people who are unwilling to use their brains for fear of irritating the wrong people. This new majority believes every single piece of nonsense that the Superintendent tells them.

      For example, at least two members of the Board believe that families are pulling their children from Evanston public schools because they don’t like the “racial mix.” One School Board member has even told people that she doesn’t care about the people who have left the District; she only cares about the ones who have stayed. In the opinion of these Board members, it’s just racist white parents who are pulling their children out of the District 65 schools.

      Wow — to swallow that line of nonsense, you have to believe that white people who live in Evanston are surprised and horrified to see black children in the public schools. Let’s call that argument what it is. It’s utter nonsense used as a dodge to explain what is driving families to leave this train wreck of a District.

      This racist-baiting nonsense has gone on long enough. We needed a Superintendent who would not blame all of the District’s ills on racist white parents. Too bad that we’ve got what we’ve got.

      What’s driving families away is the Superintendent (and now the School Board’s) total satisfaction with mediocre.

    2. Test Scores, Geometry, and School Funding
      Following your argument, logic dictates four board members also voted in the affirmative the prized “Middle School Geometry program to remain at ETHS” for advanced middle school students. Therefore, these d65 students have been over compensated in math placement criteria as well.

      According to your insinuation, d65 may have some type of direct involvement in setting measurements for the entire state’s ISAT results.

      Likewise, perhaps d65 engineered Illinois low rank; numbered at 47 among all across the United States, in terms of insufficient funding received by schools from the Illinois state legislature.

      If true, the superintendent and d65 school board have demonstrated great political influence in Springfield.

  6. One year later — D65 still has “achievement lite”
    We need to wake up and see what’s happening in District 65. Sharon Sheehan’s resignation from the District 65 Schol Board was the “canary in the mine.”

    We have “achievement lite” — District 65 trumpets how many students are “meeting standards” on a watered-down state test but ignores how the drive for excellence in District 65 has been abandoned.

    Good enough is now standard fare for District 65. Our children deserve better. Our community deserves better. Our tax dollars can provide better.

    Please vote out all of the current School Board members (except for Mary Rita Luecke). None of them is pushing District 65 to provide excellence. Instead, they nod and smile at every “sprint for the ho-hum” that Superintendent Murphy presents to them.

    We all need to ask what has happened to the public elementary schools in Evanston. Excellence is gone while mediocre, touted by Superintendent Murphy, is king.

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