About two dozen people demanded better communication, collaborativeness and a commitment to equity from Evanston School District 65’s next superintendent at a community forum held by the superintendent search firm Thursday night.
Led by Mark Friedman of BWP & Associates, participants in a community forum described the strengths of District 65, including teachers, an emphasis on social-emotional learning in which teachers meet children where they’re at and a reputation for academic excellence.
While some praised the city’s diversity, families who focus on what all kids need and a commitment to equity, someone else said that some families have no school in their neighborhood, which is not equitable.
One parent expressed concern about whether the board has what it takes to choose the right person, given the abrupt resignation of the previous superintendent, an interim superintendent for the summer, two more interim superintendents for this year and a new superintendent next year. He wondered if there would be so much disruption he should look for another option for his child.
“Historically there has not been good two-way communication with parents, especially with black parents,” said one parent. Another parent said the district needs more teachers of color.
Others said that hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent for training and on new positions, resulting in a top-heavy bureaucracy with still too many white teachers who have no idea how biased they are.
Another parent, who grew up in Evanston and now sends her children to district schools, said that black students and students with IEPs were not succeeding when she was in school. “Why do we still have an achievement gap?”
The list of characteristics needed in a new superintendent focused heavily on communication skills and equity:
- Demonstrated ability to hire and retain black teachers
- Understanding of the community of each school -- parents and teachers -- and not assume one size fits all
- Sense of urgency about achievement gap
- Open mindedness, with an open-door policy
- Experience with a diverse population and different cultures
- Focus on true equity, without looking down on kids
- Authority, fortitude and stamina to do the right thing without fear of being politically ostracized
- Vision for a better society
- Respectful and doesn’t talk down to parents
- Understanding that teachers are on a par with doctors and treat them as professionals
- Progressive and willing to throw out education as it has been done and create something unlike anywhere else
- Willing to truly partner with parents and take advantage of their energy
- Ability to motivate others
- Strong knowledge of finance, especially regarding buildings that need updating
- Understanding of curriculum
Members of the search team will aggregate the results of this forum, several focus groups and a community survey into a report with a suggested profile of the new superintendent and present it to the board at its Sept. 23 meeting.
D65 hires interim superintendents (8/20/2019)
D65 sets process for superintendent search (7/19/2019)