After passing on three finalists at the close of last year, the District 200 school board will begin interviewing a new crop of superintendent candidates next month, and expects to have one chosen by late February, early March.

The superintendent search for Oak Park and River Forest High School hit a snag in December when the Dist. 200 Board of Education passed on three finalists, all of whom were from Illinois school districts and one with Oak Park ties. Since reopening the search in December, consultant and search firm BWP & Associates has contacted a fresh batch of candidates.

Barry Greenwald, board president, said last week that he had no names of candidates to make public. He said the board has scheduled some 20 interviews for February, and the process of choosing a superintendent will be similar to last fall’s, with community forums taking place in February to introduce finalists to the public.

“It’s all going to break loose in February,” Greenwald said. “I’m hoping to get as much done in the month of February, which would include interviewing the initial list of people that the search team thinks we should, narrowing that down, and doing it in as rapid a succession as we did the last time.”

The board conducted pre-interviews with candidates before the 2006 Thanksgiving break. Three finalists were selected and met with community stakeholders in a series of separate community forums the first week of December.

But none of those candidates received overwhelming support from the community. The board reopened the search a day after the last community forum on Dec. 7.

The board had wanted to hire a superintendent-who will then hire a building principal for OPRF with input from the board-by Christmas. That timetable would have allowed the new superintendent to transition with Supt./Principal Susan Bridge, who will retire in June.

Greenwald said if this latest round doesn’t produce a superintendent, the board would begin thinking in terms of an interim-superintendent for the start of the 2007-2008 school year. He didn’t speculate on likely selections.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

Outplacing students criticized

Parents upset at Oak Park and River Forest High School’s outplacement of special education students say the high school has spent more than $3 million this year to place those students off-campus, an amount they say has steadily increased over the last several years, and which could be used to hire teachers instead.

Several of those parents spoke at last Thursday’s meeting of the District 200 Board of Education.

The parents said special ed students with discipline and medical problems related to their conditions should be serviced on campus.

“I know that some of those placements are in the best interest of the students, the families want them, and they are a good placement. It other cases, they’re not,” said parent Terry Burke, who also mentioned a case of an autistic child outplaced last year in spite of the parent’s initial objections.

Parent Pat Nassano said she looked at the school’s 2006-2007 school budget and calculated that tuition for special education students had increased substantially over the last 10 years.

Tuition in 1997 was $824,856, and by 2006 had increased to $3,139,906.

“More teachers could be hired as opposed to sending kids to outplacement that aren’t necessary,” Nassano said.

However, school officials replied that the parents’ figures and information were misleading. For the first semester of the current school year, 536 of the school’s 3,245 students are identified as having a special need, according to figures released late last week by the school. Seventy-one of those identified students attend an off-campus facility. Students outplaced receive services that the high school cannot provide on its campus. The remaining 465 identified students receive services on campus. Tuition, they said, is for all special ed students-both on-campus and off.

At the meeting, board member John Rigas said he knew the mentioned autistic child’s family personally, and that the parents were “ecstatic” about their child’s outplacement.

“In my six years-plus on the board, I haven’t had one person come to this board or to these meetings,” he said.

-Terry Dean

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