Carol Kelley. File.

Carol Kelley, the new Oak Park School District 97 superintendent, presided over her first board meeting on Tue. July 7. She was hired last month to replace former superintendent Al Roberts, who announced his retirement in January after five years with the district.

Kelley, who relocated to the area from New Jersey, said she flew into town on Sun. July 5. Sheryl Marinier, the board secretary and Kelley’s executive assistant, was at the airport to greet her and whisk her to her new office, where the two unpacked and steadied themselves for Monday morning. 

Kelley said the last few days she’s been busy getting a feel for the administration building. On Tuesday morning, she met with board leadership and her support staff, who helped her test out a draft transition plan.

“I’m looking forward to sharing more information about the plan with the community at our next board meeting,” she said on July 7. “By then, it should be finalized.”

Kelley said she and her administrative team are in the process of planning a listening tour, during which she’ll conduct individual and focus group interviews with various community stakeholders and parents.

The very first substantial order of business Kelley confronted during Tuesday’s meeting was a three-year technology plan the board recently directed staff to develop. The purpose is to get a measurable sense of how effective technologies such as the district-issued iPads are to the learning process — and how exactly students are using them.

Kelley, a former systems engineer, will essentially serve as the chief conduit filtering the board’s policy directives with respect to the plan into actionable goals for her staff to execute. How well she does this may well be the first major test of her tenure.

For now, however, she’s still getting acquainted with Oak Park District 97. As board Vice President Amy Felton began introducing new members of the district’s various voluntary committees, such as the Facilities Advisory Committee, board member Robert Spatz started laughing at Kelley’s wide-eyed reaction to the impressive resumes.

After rattling off the splashy titles — senior advisor to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, vice president at BMO Harris bank, project architect, etc. — Felton gathered herself, as if, like the new superintendent, she was impressed by all of the expertise for the very first time.

“And these are our volunteers!” she said.

“I can’t stop smiling,” said Kelley, not long before the meeting adjourned. 

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