Last week the school board at Oak Park and River Forest High School made the wise, and really, the only possible decision, to move forward with the hiring of an interim superintendent for the next school year. With Supt. Steven Isoye’s late-in-the-season announcement that he was leaving District 200 behind, an interim is the logical choice.

Still, ahead is the decision of whether to pick someone off the list of about 100 available retired supers provided by the Illinois Association of School Boards or to look internally for a current administrator to fill the seat. Either way the board goes, this will be a lost year in every aspect save two.

The year ahead will have to be used to clear the decks of this wretched pool issue. Sure, there may still be funding aspects to be settled a year out but the fundamental plan needs to be determined, and board needs to be ready to take whatever lumps are handed out by a fractured citizenry.

And secondly, the board needs to take full advantage of the single upside to being abandoned by its superintendent this late in the year. They have the luxury of time to really work to find the right superintendent.

At its meeting last Thursday, the board already began hearing from the ultimate in usual suspects — those are the small number of outrageously inbred search firms that rotate around and about among districts recommending and recycling the same batch of potential superintendents. The leaders of these highly specialized firms are themselves retired and sometimes even active superintendents.

As Donald Trump might say, “The system is rigged.”

To its credit, some school board members expressed hesitation and concern about the early firms they heard from last Thursday. That’s the right impulse.

Before this search even starts, the board must do some profound soul-searching about what this district needs in a superintendent. 

To us, the answer is startlingly simple. Oak Park and River Forest High School’s next superintendent must come from the very small pool of school leaders in America who have aggressively, innovatively, holistically had success in closing the achievement gap.

That is what matters. 

So this isn’t the normal search where the insiders turn up more insiders and parade them in front of the board and a select group of insider citizens, and then we all take a leap off the cliff and hope we got lucky. This is more like Theo Epstein knowing he had to have Joe Maddon as the Cubs manager and going out and getting him.

The search could begin within the Minority Student Achievement Network, of which districts 97 and 200 are members. It could look in smaller districts where there has been success on the gap. It could focus on principals within those gap-focused districts. Most specifically, the search could start in Evanston.

Or the board could hire a superintendent with a civil engineering background and get the damn pool built!

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