Rupa Datta

In preparation for what will be their first major decision since the April 7 election, District 97’s newly constituted Board of Education met April 13 to consider candidates to succeed outgoing superintendent Al Roberts. The 45-year education veteran will retire at the end of this academic year.

New school board members Rupa Datta-Nemana and Holly Spurlock will be included in the confidential superintendent search meetings ahead of May 5, the date they’ll be officially sworn into office. Re-elected board president Robert Spatz said that the members-elect had to sign non-disclosure agreements. 

Spatz noted that the board opted for the May 5 meeting to swear-in the new members, because the elections won’t be officially certified until April 28. Three years ago, Spatz said, the board swore-in new officers before the elections were officially certified. He said this time, the district was careful to avoid the snafu. 

The process of finding a new superintendent had been a foremost issue during this year’s D97 elections, with all 10 candidates offering a range of opinions on the matter. 

Datta, an education policy expert and mother of two Beye Elementary students, offered some insight into the kind of priorities that may govern how she decides on Roberts’s replacement.

“I would like to see us really focus on consistently high-quality instruction through better information, increased engagement with key stakeholders and using those two things to sharpen our choices about how we invest our resources,” she said during an interview with Wednesday Journal in February. 

In January, the board hired Hazzard Young Attea and Associates to facilitate the search process, which included a public survey intended to assist the board in gauging the community’s concerns and priorities. The survey was posted online through Feb. 18.

At the beginning of the year, the board had estimated that the new superintendent would be chosen and hired by July 1. But Spatz hinted that the process could be wrapped up well before then. 

“The next steps [after April 13] are dependent on the results of the second interviews, scheduling availability and the time needed to negotiate contract terms,” he said, adding that the process typically takes about two to three weeks, “but can be shorter or longer.” 

Spatz said that an appointment could possibly happen by early May at a specially scheduled board meeting.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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