It’s going to be difficult for Merryl Brownlow to say goodbye. 

After five years as principal of Willard School, the high-energy Brownlow will soon head out to Lombard where she will become the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Elementary District 44. 

Her announcement became official Wednesday morning, the day after the west suburban Lombard school board appointed Brownlow to the post.

It’s a great opportunity for her. It’s a great thing at the right time. It’s the right fit, the 48-year-old Brownlow said.

“(But) I love this school. Willard is a great place to go to school. Parents, staff and students have all come together in a collaborative way that is focused on student growth and supporting the whole child,” she said. “It’ll be a difficult place to leave.” 

Willard School is located at 1250 Ashland Ave., River Forest.

An email blast about her appointment went out district-wide Wednesday morning; an announcement also went into Willard’s newsletter.

On Friday, Brownlow will talk about her leaving during a student assembly.

“I want to help them with all this and let them know that I do care about Willard. I want to let them know that I will be here until the last day of school (June 11) and that we all will get through this together,” she said.

She will be in the district until June 30, the end of the school year so she can make the school ship shape and ready so the transition will be as smooth as possible, she said. 

District 90 will not wait until June 30 to find a successor. A posting about the position will appear starting May 15 in such places as Education Week and on the Illinois Association of School Administrators job bank. Facilitating the selection process will be School ExecConnect, a search firm, said Edward Condon, District 90’s superintendent.

The district’s goal is to have someone on board by Aug. 25, the first day children return to school.

But, Condon said, it is more important for the district to get an individual who is the best fit possible.

Staff, parents, community members and administrators will have a role to play in the selection process. What shape that process will take will be refined until the district knows what the candidate pool looks like, Condon said. 

Notices will be sent out periodically to update parents about the progress of the district’s search, Condon said. 

Merryl has been a tremendous principal and a valued leader,” Condon said. “She is a passionate advocate for our students, staff, and families. And she’s has been a tremendous leader for Willard Elementary. She leaves big shoes to fill. It’ll be hard for us to see her leave.” 

Ironically Brownlee was the last principal hired by District 90. A 22-year education veteran, she came to District 90 from Glenview District 34 where she served as a principal. Before that she was an administrator in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and taught in New Jersey and Pennsylvania schools. Education was her second career. She had been a retail buyer in New York City before entering education.

The district she will be going to has 3,173 students who attend seven schools in grades kindergarten through 8th grade and is more diverse than River Forest, according to District 44’s 2013 report card. Students predominately live in Lombard.

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