By Terry Dean
The District 200 school board has tapped an administrator from Evanston Township High School to become the new assistant principal for instruction at Oak Park and River Forest High School.
Chala (Shay-la) Holland was hired June 14 by the OPRF board. She officially starts July 1, at a salary of $118,000. Currently, she is director of academic support and summer school principal at Evanston Township.
The assistant principal for instruction is a new position within OPRF's building leadership, part of an overall administration reorganization. Holland will oversee all matters of instruction, as well as department chairs. She'll report directly to Principal Nathaniel Rouse.
Speaking from Evanston Township on Monday, Holland, 32, said she's looking forward to meeting OPRF's staff and students. Holland did her student teaching assignment at Evanston before being hired full-time in 2002, teaching history and social science. She moved up to administration in 2009.
In the last year, Holland, a native of Pennsylvania, has served as director of academic support. The job encompassed many initiatives that Holland herself created, including a Saturday afternoon tutoring program for students, and professional development activities for faculty around racial equity issues.
Holland says she wants to spend her initial time at OPRF listening and learning from staff and students but eventually intends to create a similar "systematic support structure," at OPRF as she did at Evanston.
"I want to do a lot of brainstorming with the division heads and the teachers, and I want to know from the kids what they need," Holland said.
Overseeing OPRF's division chairs also attracted her to the job. She worked closely with, but did not have responsibility over, Evanston's department chairs. Oversight of OPRF's division chairs will switch from the assistant superintendent for curriculum to the new assistant principal post.
Holland said she always wanted to work with kids and considered going into either education or pediatrics. But she chose the teaching profession, she said, inspired by the "teachers" she had growing up, whether in education or those who shared life experiences. Holland says her mother, Mary Weldon, was her "first teacher."
Neither of her parents, though, are educators. Holland said her mother worked but mainly focused on raising her. She described her father as a prominent community activist in Ardmore, Penn., a western suburb of Philadelphia.
Holland graduated from Northwestern University where she was also a star athlete, playing women's basketball. But she focused as much on academics as sports while in college. At Evanston Township, she won an award from the State Board of Education in 2008 for excellence as an early career educator.
As a student growing up, Holland said she felt "mis-educated," and didn't feel "validated" by the curriculum. She decided to go into teaching so today's students wouldn't feel the same.
"I wanted to teach history, where students can ask and think critically about different narratives. That would have enhanced my experiences as a student, but I didn't have that. When you only teach from one narrative, everyone is missing out."