District 97 is looking for a new director of special education.

Steve Castle is leaving Dist. 97 to become special education director at Mundelein High School. Hired in 2003, his last day in Dist. 97 is July 1.

Supt. Constance Collins said Castle informed administration in early May that he was leaving. She said they weren’t aware of his intentions to leave. Castle didn’t publicize that he was interviewing elsewhere, she added.

“He will definitely be missed. This was his sixth year in the district. I’m just completing my fourth year, so he’s been the director I’ve worked with, and I feel quite fortunate to have worked with him these last four years,” said Collins.

On April 28, the board of education for Mundelein Consolidated High School District 120 voted unanimously to hire Castle, according to board minutes. He will join Gary Lonquist, former Dist. 97 assistant superintendent for finances and operations, who is now that district’s business manager.

Last Wednesday, Dist. 97 hosted a forum at Brooks Middle School, seeking community input concerning leadership qualities expected in the next special ed director. Though only a dozen people attended, the group had many suggestions, including hiring someone open to change and transparency. Participants also wanted someone who will collaborate with the special education departments at Oak Park and River Forest High School and private schools.

“Hopefully, we will be successful in identifying someone who has done a lot of the things that were listed and has the experience,” said Collins.

The district will host another forum from 7 to 8 p.m., Wednesday at Brooks, 325 S. Kenilworth. Collins said she believes the district can find a new special education director before the fall term begins in August.

“Unfortunately, we are a little late in the process. However, we are still hopeful and believing that we will find the right person for the position. Steve is leaving at the end of this month. Ideally, we would have liked to have someone identified to start July 1, but that’s not likely because of the meetings that we’re holding and the input we’re seeking.”

Collins stressed that parents, administrators and principals will be involved in the screening process for the new director. Trish Carlson, Dist. 97 director of human resources, said the district has 35 candidates they’re considering. Collins will interview the finalists and make a recommendation to the school board.

“We’re very confident that we’ll have someone before school starts,” said Carlson.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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