District 200 Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams will retire at the end of this school year. The D200 school board voted to approve her retirement, which goes into effect on July 1, 2021, during its regular meeting on Nov. 19.
Pruitt-Adams announced her decision at the beginning of Thursday night’s board meeting.
“What started out as a one-year interim position grew into five years of a labor of love,” she said. “I have grown so much personally and professionally being here at [Oak Park and River Forest High School], but I would be remiss if I did not say it’s also been a challenge — both personally and professionally.
“Being away from family has been difficult and it’s time for me to return,” she said. “I’ve been in education 44 years, 30 of which have been in administration and I have had the luxury of those 44 years doing the only thing I have ever aspired to do in my life and that was to be an educator.”
Pruitt-Adams will return to St. Louis where her family has continued to live during her time in Oak Park.
Holding back tears, school board member Jackie Moore praised Pruitt-Adams for her five years at OPRF.
“We’ve done a lot of learning and growing and a lot of that was under her tutelage,” said Moore. “I’m also grateful that she’s modeling self-care for us, so I appreciate that.”
Pruitt-Adams began her tenure at OPRF in the summer of 2016, in an interim role, after former superintendent Stephen Isoye unexpectedly resigned to take the top job at Niles Township High Schools District 219. She was hired as the district’s permanent superintendent in December, to great fanfare.
Pruitt-Adams appeared to have met board members’ expectations. Just last year, the board unanimously approved a three-year contract with the superintendent that would have lasted through the 2021-22 school year.
In a statement released late Thursday night, Pruitt-Adams called her tenure at OPRF a “labor of love,” adding that her position has been “an extraordinarily intense job in the best of times.
“Doing this job while my husband and family have remained in St. Louis has been doubly hard. The toll has been tremendous, both personally and professionally. It’s bittersweet for me, but I know it’s time for me to return home.”
Pruitt-Adams is planning to leave as the district attempts to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic and what will almost certainly be difficult financial circumstances. District 200, as with many school districts, will face revenue shortfalls from a pandemic-related recession, and state and federal budget crunches.
In her statement, Pruitt-Adams listed a litany of administration and board achievements during her tenure, including the creation of a strategic plan “that gives the district the direction to become an exemplary school district,” the implementation of racial equity and gender equity policies, the start of a detracking process that will entail all freshman students having access to honors-level courses in most subjects and the implementation of the most comprehensive facilities improvement plan in a half-century.
“My tenure here at Oak Park and River Forest High School has been the most amazing and challenging of my 44 years as an educator,” Dr. Pruitt-Adams said. “Each of these accomplishments has come with enormous challenges. I thank all who have worked in partnership to navigate those difficulties and who remain focused on doing what is best for our students.”
Sara Dixon Spivy, the current D200 school board president, said that Pruitt-Adams has “led the district with quiet grace and confidence through issues difficult and novel — from the release of America to Me at the beginning of her tenure to implementation of remote learning during a worldwide pandemic.
“Through it all, our students’ well-being has remained her constant focus. Dr. Pruitt-Adams’s legacy cannot be overstated; she has championed racial and gender equity and built an executive cabinet brimming with talent. While the Board is very sorry to see her go, she is leaving us well-equipped to meet the challenges ahead, and we are grateful for her service to the district.”