Between a comeback from COVID’s largely lost year of schooling and the urgency of executing on its ambitious equity plan, this is a bad year for Oak Park’s District 97 elementary schools to open with a roster of interim players (and co-players).
The late announcement by Carol Kelley that she was on the first plane to Princeton, New Jersey left the school board with not enough time to do a proper search for a new superintendent. That Kelley was a finalist for the top job in Madison, Wisconsin six months earlier should have been fair warning to warm up the search engine.
So now we have recycled a batch of retired superintendents and other former administrators wangling the lucrative Illinois pension system by job sharing and keeping their reported work hours under the state mandated threshold so they don’t mess up their pension payments. Sharing the superintendent seat this year will be Patricia Wernet and Griff Powell. Just announced as the co-occupants of the HR director’s office are Cathie Pezanoski and Tim Kilrea. Even Beye School has interim co-principals though one of them is not a retiree.
Honestly, this is not a kick at any of the individuals involved. We’ve reported on Powell as an interim in another community we cover and he is first rate. We assume the others are, too.
But the pension workaround is dubious and the reality that D97 is going to have two consecutive years where the focus was first on surviving COVID and the second just a titch beyond placeholding is worrisome. This is a district with immediate challenges and opportunities. We’ll have to wait a year to begin taking those up.