Next school year, Oak Park and River Forest High School will be without a principal — for good.
Just two days after Nate Rouse, OPRF’s principal for the last 11 years, announced his pending resignation, District 200 Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams laid out a new organizational plan for her administration that doesn’t include a principal position at all.
Pruitt-Adams presented her new organizational chart to D200 school board members during a regular meeting on March 21. In a statement the superintendent’s office sent out to students, staff, families and community members on March 22, she explained that the new structure would be “cost neutral by not replacing [the] principal while adding executive director of equity and student success.”
During a meeting on Feb. 28, the D200 board unanimously voted to approve the creation of an executive director of equity and student success — a position that comes with a salary range between $114,130 and $152,173, according to the job posting. The district is planning to fill the post before the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.
At the time the position was approved, Pruitt-Adams said that person would be responsible “for ensuring that all of the work throughout the district supports our commitment to racial equity.”
As part of the new administrative restructuring, Pruitt-Adams said, Greg Johnson, the district’s current assistant superintendent, will be promoted to the role of associate superintendent.
“Some of his current duties will be reassigned because he will be assuming many of the responsibilities traditionally held by the principal,” D200 officials said in the statement. “Additionally, the titles of assistant principals are being changed to director positions, and these positions also will take on some of the principal responsibilities.”
In addition to Johnson’s new role, Pruitt-Adams explained that she’s assigning each of the goals contained in the district’s strategic plan, which the board revised in 2017, to a “specific administrator.” Previously, oversight of the goals had been “more diffuse,” with their implementation left up to various committees.
Nate Rouse announced on March 19 that he plans on leaving his position by June 30 in order to take a school program director position. He didn’t give any more details about the new job beyond that information.
“This structure is, admittedly, somewhat unconventional,” said Pruitt-Adams, who shared the proposed restructuring at an all-staff meeting on Wednesday. “But OPRF is not a conventional district. This is a forward-thinking structure that will allow us to transform the way we do teaching and learning in this school.”
During last week’s board meeting, Johnson conceded “there’s anxiety, no doubt,” related to the administrative changes, “but we’re up to the task.”
Some D200 board members, such as Tom Cofsky, expressed concern that the changes would create even more distance between teachers and top administrators.
“The number of layers to get from the front-line worker to the top in the structure — for the majority of our front-line work force, it’s increased a layer,” Cofsky said. “Any concerns with that?”
Pruitt-Adams said that, in practice, there will be no additional bureaucratic layering “if we continue as we have now,” adding that she has an “open-door policy and I don’t see that changing.”
She conceded that a common question asked by students and staff related to the changes is “Who will be the face of the district” when Rouse leaves.
“We have to take that question very seriously,” the superintendent said. “That’s why we need to get all the feedback we can.”
The superintendent said the administrative changes will help break down barriers between the administration and the school building. She added that the district is currently developing an FAQ about the changes for students, staff, parents and community members.