District 200 superintendent finalist JoAnn Wooden-Roberts called the questioning of her credentials an insult and demeaning.

Roberts, who is in her 50s, is one of two remaining finalists to replace Susan Bridge at Oak Park and River Forest High School. The other candidate is Attila Weninger, director of human resources for Lyons Township High School. Barbara Erwin, superintendent of Community School District 303 in west suburban St. Charles, dropped out two weeks ago.

Barry Greenwald, president of the OPRF school board, said on Monday the selection process was continuing and that an announcement would not be made public until a formal agreement is reached with the candidate.

Concerning Roberts, Greenwald said the board looked into all of the finalists’ job history and concluded that Roberts’ credentials were fine.

Several anonymous individuals had questioned her job experience and title within the Chicago Public School system.

Roberts states on her resume presented to the board that she served as an education manager and “troubleshooter” for CPS since July 2001.

Roberts said her title and other positions within CPS were part of a restructuring under Mayor Richard Daley in the 1990s. Daley took over control of Chicago schools in 1995. CPS has not used the term of superintendent or assistant superintendent since. After taking control, Daley created the position of CEO and hired Paul Vallas. Vallas served in the job until 2001, and is currently a schools CEO in Philadelphia.

Roberts was hired by Vallas in 1998 as an intervention officer/troubleshooter for schools on probation. Roberts said her title has changed since then, but she stands by her work. She said those who question her credentials are doing so because of a lack of knowledge of the CPS system.

“My credentials are solid as a rock,” an impassioned Roberts said. “My credentials stand strong and they stand tall to the quality of my work.”

Roberts said her job requires her to go into troubled Chicago schools as an interim principal and implement improvement initiatives. She’s currently an interim principal at Paderewski Learning Academy in Lawndale.

Roberts presented Wednesday Journal with reference letters signed by Garland Cleggett, a region education officer for CPS, and Barbara Eason-Watkins, chief education officer and No. 2 administrator for CPS. Both backed up Roberts’ credentials.

“When she was hired as the system’s trouble-shooter, Dr. Roberts was sent to several schools in my region,” writes Cleggett in his letter.

Watkins wrote, “I have known Dr. Roberts for over 10 years while she served in the capacities of principal, director of speech and language, intervention officer, deputy chief superintendent and currently as education manager for turnaround schools. She is an avid educational leader and well respected by her colleagues.”

Roberts said her credentials have never been questioned in her more than 30 years in education.

Roberts said she has no problem with people wanting to know her background but wonders why the other finalists’ credentials weren’t questioned.

“Put us all out in the open,” she said. “If you question one then question everyone.”

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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