On Friday night, June 17, Marsha and I went to a party to celebrate Dr. Jack Fagan's 17 years of District 97 superintendency. The guest list was pretty special?#34;only those who had served on the Board of Education during Jack's tenure.
I thought there was a pretty good turn out. To be sure, not everyone showed. Maybe they had a conflict. Or maybe they didn't like Jack. I had served on the board way back, from 1987 to 1991, so I felt a little bit like those last dying veterans of World War I, but everyone seemed glad to see me including some board members who I had never met. Upon reflection, I felt sure their amity was due to the fact that my service on the board was so bad that each and every one of them was comforted by the thought that he or she was not the worst board member there. My small contribution to District 97.
Actually, there was an appropriate symmetry to my presence. I had been on the search team that went to Connecticut on a hot day in the fall of 1987 to check Jack out for our new Superintendent. And now here I was 18 years later saying goodbye. After our visit, I was all for hiring Jack because he seemed pretty smart and was a nice guy. Also, I loved the way he talked?#34;just like Kennedy. Very cool. I had only seen him a few times in the intervening years, but he seemed glad to see me.
The party was nice. The drinks were cold and the food was good and the camaraderie was genuine. We even had a barber shop quartet sing a few tunes. I thought that was a little odd, but I guess Jack is a singer of sorts. Everybody said nice things about Jack and Mary Schneider, Jack's No. 2, who was also being honored for her retirement. From what I could tell, if Jack was Batman then Mary was Robin. So it kind of made sense for them to retire at the same time.
Since I helped to hire Jack, I always wanted him to do well here. Some people had told me that Jack maybe stayed on a little too long and that he bunkered in at the Madison Street headquarters a little too much toward the end of his tenure. Maybe so.
But then I got to thinking that Jack was our Superintendent for 17 years. He's the only recent double digit year guy in either 97 or 200 since Dr. Swanson. Most of us have no idea how hard the Superintendent's job is here in Oak Park. Very high expectations, a limited commercial tax base, race, special education, building maintenance, security and teacher negotiations are just part of the job. You can never hide.
Our community expects that our Superintendent be visible. So whether a parent drops by unannounced or a citizen wants to chat at Farmers' Market you are on call 24/7. It is remarkable to be on such a watch for 17 years. Jack noted a friend's insight at our little soiree: Your friends come and go but your enemies accumulate. Very true.
So how do you evaluate 17 years of a man's work? High test scores? Academic competitions won? Increased property values? I'm not sure.
I suppose you ask yourself did your children, and the children of the village, get a good education? Did they go on and have some success that could at least in part be attributed to the time they spent in District 97? I felt like mine did and so I guess I think Jack gets some credit for a job well done.
So good luck Jack in your next life. Hope to see you at Farmer's Market. Thanks.