Oak Park elementary school District 97 Superintendent Al Roberts will retire at the end of this academic year, according to a statement released by his office. 

“For the past five years, you have afforded me the honor and privilege of serving as the superintendent of District 97,” Roberts said in the statement. “You have worked alongside me on programs, projects and initiatives that have our schools on track to move from great to world class.

“Whether working on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, International Baccalaureate program or the Research for Better Teaching initiative, aiding our buildings in their preparation for the arrival of the PARCC test, or celebrating the achievements of our students and staff members, please know that you will continue to get my best each and every day,” said Roberts, a veteran educator with 45 years of experience.

Most recently, Roberts had been busy shepherding the district through the rocky process of constructing a future central office, which could be located at 260 Madison Street if all goes according to plan. At one point in 2013, when the district was considering relocating its headquarters to Oak Park Village Hall land, Roberts and the district drew the ire of various community members, many of whom lived within proximity of the proposed site.

However, after five years on the job, Roberts’ reputation among parents and staff has been, if not rousing, rather solid. In a recent D97 climate survey, 54 percent of more than 1,000 parents and faculty members responding rated Roberts good or excellent. And in September 2013, the D97 board granted Roberts a vote of confidence with a three-year contract extension accompanied by a 2 percent raise.

In 2013, Wednesday Journal reported that Roberts, a Detroit native, had “garnered praise from his board” with a range of forward-looking initiatives. 

“Playground renovations are routine in school districts, but Roberts advocated for more ambitious — and more expensive — schoolyard improvements. He pushed for and got rubberized surfaces added to every playground for safety purposes.

“Roberts has also worked to expand the district’s technology plan, even exploring how student cellphones might be used in the classroom — for educational purposes only. D97 was well on the path to pursuing a tax hike referendum before Roberts’ hiring in summer 2010. He insisted that the dollars from the referendum — passed in spring 2011 — would be used to back new ideas and new initiatives,” according to the article.

Several attempts to contact Roberts and members of the D97 board were unsuccessful. 

Read Roberts’ full statement.

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