First reported 4/13/2010 9:06 a.m.

Oak Park and River Forest High School has formally named its next leader.

Steven Isoye, current principal of Maine East High School in Park Ridge, will take over the reigns as superintendent of District 200 in July. The Board of Education selected him on March 25 but kept his name in close confidence, an untypical move in Oak Park as finalists under previous searches were introduced to the community before a person was selected.

OPRF made the announcement on its new superintendent Tuesday morning via a press release.

“I am excited to become part of this high school and community and excited about the work we can do and the successes we can accomplish together,” Isoye said in the release. “No one person has the answers. The real work and the ideas need to be generated and acted upon by the people who are working closest to the students. My job is to be the keeper of that vision.”

Ralph Lee, president of the Dist. 200 board, said the school is still hammering out details in the contract but would likely take a formal vote this week. A special meeting would need to be scheduled, Lee added. At that session and after a formal vote is taken, Isoye is expected to have a meet-and-greet with school administrators. Lee said that OPRF will have additional opportunities to introduce him to the rest of the school and broader Oak Park community. That schedule, though, will depend on Isoye’s availability while still serving as principal at Maine East.

Current Dist. 200 Supt. Attila Weninger’s three-year tenure at OPRF will end in June. Isoye’s contract will be a multi-year deal which will include performance-based goals. Details of the contact, including salary, are still being negotiated, according to the press release.

Lee described Isoye as “the right fit” for OPRF while noting his 25-year academic career.

Just last month, Isoye, who’s in his third year at Maine East, was named Illinois High School Principal of the Year by the Illinois Principals Association.

In an interview with Journal & Topics Newspapers out of Des Plaines, Ken Wallace, superintendent of Maine Township High School said of Isoye, “The IPA High School Principal of the Year award could not go to a more deserving candidate.”

Prior to joining Maine East, Isoye, a Concordia University grad, was principal of Warren Township High School in Gurnee. He also served there as a school administrator overseeing curriculum, was a science department chair and a classroom teacher. He was named Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education in 1998 while at Warren.

Isoye has also served on the Board of Trustees at the Illinois Math and Science Academy since ’98 and currently chairs its strategic planning committee.

“I’d say that’s a pretty impressive record,” said Lee, who’s most impressed with Isoye’s communication skills. “He’s sharp and collaborative. His experience at Maine East is with a fairly diverse student body. He also has a background that would lead him to making use of data in decision-making. We’ve already started in that direction, but I think he’ll move us forward in that process.”

Concerning OPRF’s achievement gap, Lee said, “In conversations with him, he understands that closing the achievement gap does not have a silver bullet, but he believes that some approaches are better than other approaches, and I look forward in working with him in that direction.”

The Dist. 200 board unanimously selected Isoye last month from a finalist pool of three individuals. A majority of the board agreed to keep the search process closed, including not making the finalists’ names public.

Speaking to Wednesday Journal on Tuesday, Jacques Conway, a member of the Dist. 200 school board, said Isoye brings a unique set of skills to OPRF.

“I’m just excited that it’s over because it was a long process and we can now move forward with improving the academic achievement for our students. That’s what’s most important.”

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