By Terry Dean
Oak Park elementary school District 97 has hired a Chicago Public Schools principal and an administrator with a Chicago educational nonprofit as its new curriculum directors.
The District 97 Board of Education officially approved Helen Wei and Carrie Kamm as the district's newest administrators on Aug. 12. Both will serve as curriculum and instruction directors, replacing the lone curriculum director post.
The new administrators will each oversee one middle school and its feeder elementary schools.
Kamm will oversee Brooks, Lincoln, Holmes, Whittier and Hatch. Wei (pronounced WAY) will oversee Julian, Mann, Beye, Longfellow and Irving. Kamm formerly served as mentor and resident coach at the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a teacher training organization.
Founded in 2001, the Chicago-based nonprofit provides professional development for CPS faculty. According to its website, AUSL has graduated more than 750 teachers from 35 CPS schools through its residency program.
Wei served for five years as principal of Chicago Academy Elementary School in Chicago's Portage Park neighborhood, and prior to that was an assistant principal there. The North Side school has roughly 600 students, the majority of whom, 64 percent, are Hispanic. The academy is also in AUSL's network of schools.
In an interview last Friday, Wei said she applied for the D97 post wanting to move to Oak Park because of the school district and its diverse community. Wei is an Oak Park native but moved with her family to Skokie, where she grew up and attended school, when she was two years old.
"I was instantly attracted to Oak Park as a district and fascinated by the position," she said.
The new curriculum director posts are part of a revamping of the district's curriculum department. A deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction is also expected to be hired this fall. Wei and Kamm have already met with the district's principals and start their new jobs this week. Both discussed and agreed that splitting up the schools would work best.
"We'll have an opportunity to development the department as we grow into our roles," said Wei, the mother of two young children. "It'll be a collaborative effort on how we will be working in our schools."
The district has not yet released each administrator's salary or term of service, but most administrators are on annual contracts.
Wei, 41, began her teaching career in 1996 and has worked mostly in CPS. She said she knew since high school that she wanted to be a teacher. Both of her parents were educators — her mother a schoolteacher and her father a professor in his native Taiwan. The couple immigrated to America in 1970.
Wei did her administrative studies at National-Louis University, and earned her Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin-Madison. As for other interests, Wei said she's an avid reader and spends time with her children and husband, who works in Chicago's nonprofit sector.