As Evanston Skokie School District 65 gets ready to embark on another search for a new superintendent, here’s a look back at how the last two superintendent searches played out.
August 12, 2013
School Superintendent Hardy Murphy resigned suddenly “to pursue consulting opportunities” after serving as District 65 superintendent for 13 years.
The announcement followed a closed-door board meeting to evaluate the superintendent’s performance.
Murphy had routinely received contract extensions from the board guaranteeing his job five years into the future earlier in his tenure, but recent elections had brought new members to the school board who were less supportive of his performance.
August 23, 2013
The school board named retired D65 administrator Barbara Hiller as chief administrative officer for the 2013-14 school year and Mary Brown, the district’s business manager, as interim superintendent.
The board said it would start looking in September for a permanent replacement for Murphy to take over for the 2014-15 school year.
September – November 2013
In September, the D65 and D202 boards talked about the possibility of consolidating the two districts which could have eliminated the need to have separate superintendents — but decided they weren’t interested in that.
And D65 Board President Tracy Quattrocki said selection of a consulting firm to aid in the search for a new superintendent would have to be postponed until late October. The board ultimately interviewed four firms for the job at a public meeting
The firm selected, Hazard, Young Attea & Associates, presented plans early in November to wrap up the superintendent search by April 1, 2014.
December 2013 – May 2014
After conducting an online survey seeking public input on what it should look for in a new superintendent, conducting some lightly attended forums and agreeing on a candidate profile, the board announced five finalists in mid-March.
One withdraw after he was offered a job heading another district, and the board ended up choosing an Evanston resident, Paul Goren, in late March and officially hiring him in late April to start in mid-May at a $250,000 a year salary.
June 14, 2019
Under Goren’s leadership, the school system faced continuing criticism about lack of progress in closing the achievement gap for Black students and a successful campaign by OPAL, the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership, to elect “pro-equity candidates” to the school board.
With board members expressing disappointment about declining test scores, Goren announced on June 14, 2019, that he was resigning, effective July 1.
June 17, 2019
The next Monday the school board interviewed four superintendent search firms and selected Evanston-based BWP & Associates to search for an interim superintendent for the 2019-20 school year and a permanent new leader.
Board President Sunith Kartha said, “We understand that the uncertainty raised by a change in leadership can cause discomfort and anxiety.”
The board appointed Assistant Superintendent Stacy Beardsley to act as interim superintendent through the end of August.
July – August 2019
After debating the qualifications for an interim superintendent in July, the board in August appointed two retired school superintendents, Phil Ehrhardt and Heidi Wennstrom, to serve as co-interim superintendents for the 2019-2020 school year.
Splitting the job between two candidates was designed to enable them to not exceed work schedule restrictions that would disqualify them from receiving pension payments from their previous jobs.
September 2019 – December 2019
After conducting a community survey that drew 855 responses and holding lightly attended community forums in September, the school board announced in December that it had privately interviewed five candidates from a pool of 31 who applied, invited two to return for private school visits and community meetings — but had one of those candidates withdraw — leaving the board on Dec. 16 to appoint Devon Horton as superintendent, effective July 1, 2020, with a first-year salary of $250,000.
Now, after 13 years with Murphy, 5 with Goren and 3 with Horton as the head of District 65 schools, the district is about to embark on yet another superintendent search.
Great reporting though more than a little discouraging.
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