By Terry Dean
Oak Park's District 97 will hire principals for both middle schools this week. Following the abrupt resignation of the Brooks principal this spring, along with the scheduled retirement of Julian's top administrator this summer, the district pursued an expedited search to land two permanent candidates. The alternative would have been installing interim principals.
The D97 school board is slated to approve the new principals this week. Their names won't be released publicly by the district until the board approves their hiring.
Current Brooks Principal Tom Sindelar resigned in March for undisclosed reasons. Sindelar, who was hired in 2005, will remain on through June 30. Victoria Sharts, longtime principal of Julian, is set to retire at the end of the school year. The district was originally only looking for Sharts' replacement until Sindelar's resignation doubled their duty.
Roughly 70 people applied for the two principal posts. The group was whittled down to 12 candidates who were screened by Supt. Albert Roberts and his "administrative team." Six from that batch were chosen to be interviewed by staff and parent groups at each school. Three candidates were selected for interviews by the superintendent and district administrators.
Oak Park principals are typically on one-year contracts but Chris Jasculca, spokesperson for the district, said the contract duration and salary for the new middle school principals will be finalized by the board this week. About the two prospective hires, Jasculca said via email, "The individuals selected for these positions are accomplished professionals who possess a wealth of educational experience and a profound commitment to helping children succeed both in and out the classroom. … While replacing Dr. Sharts and Principal Sindelar will not be easy, we believe we have found two exemplary candidates who will build on the history of success at our middle schools and take them to the next level."
The district is also eyeing May 22 to hire a replacement for Nimisha Kumar at Mann Elementary, 921 N. Kenilworth. Kumar resigned in April following a state standardized testing scandal where school staff mishandled students' tests. Her last day is June 30. More than 100 people applied for the Mann post.