District 97 Supt. Carol Kelley will be resigning at the end of the school year in order to take the superintendent position at Princeton Public Schools in New Jersey, according to a statement the superintendent sent to D97 families on Feb. 18.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the superintendent of District 97,” Kelley said. “After six years, I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made, the challenges we’ve weathered and the successes we’ve celebrated along the way. As much as I have loved this work and the team I work with every day, I know it’s the right time for me to move closer to home.”

Kelley was hired as D97 superintendent in 2015, after having served three years as superintendent of a school district in New Jersey. Her last day with D97 will be June 30.

Last year, she was named one of two finalists for superintendent at a school district in Wisconsin, but did not get that position.

In her statement on Feb. 18, Kelley touted a range of “notable successes” during her tenure helming D97, including passing “a comprehensive racial and educational equity policy and developing programs to help eliminate opportunity gaps and ensure that every child has access to an excellent and equitable educational experience.”

Kelley also mentioned the passage of a nearly $71 million bond referendum designed to raise funds to build the district’s operative reserve and make various capital improvements.

In 2020, she was named a “Superintendent of Distinction by her colleagues in the West Cook region of the Illinois Association of School Administrators.”

And since March, Kelley guided the district through the transition from full remote learning to hybrid learning.

“We want to thank Dr. Kelley for six years of dedicated service to District 97 and the Oak Park community,” said D97 board President Keecia Broy.

“We are grateful for her leadership and unwavering commitment to equity, which has contributed to meaningful advancements in student learning and district operations,” she said. “Although the board is disappointed to see her go, we know that this is a special opportunity for Dr. Kelley to return home, and we wish her the best as she embarks on this new chapter.”

Kelley’s departure means there are superintendent vacancies at both Oak Park public school districts.

In November, District 200 Supt. Joylyn Pruitt-Adams announced her intention to retire effective July 1.

The Oak Park and River Forest High School board has since hired an executive search firm to help identify her successor, which the board hopes to do by April.

“Information about the district’s plans to search for a successor will be shared with the community in the coming weeks,” according to the Feb. 18 statement for District 97. 

In the meantime, Kelley said she remains “committed to District 97 and will continue working with the best interest of our students, staff and families in mind.”  

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