The Oak Park District 97 Board of Education is inviting families, residents and local leaders to a forum Oct. 20 to help with the search for a new superintendent. The district’s hired search firm, Hazard, Attea, Young and Associates (HYA), will be leading the Zoom webinar from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and asking stakeholders to provide input on the district’s needs, as well as the skills and qualifications the next superintendent should have.

Representatives from HYA are looking for community members to share the values and goals the successor to former Superintendent Carol Kelley should have, said Amanda Siegfried, senior director of communications. She said the upcoming Wednesday event – which is capped at around 500 guests – also serves as another effort from HYA, which has already held focus groups and individual interviews and released an online survey.

As the latest forum aligns with those initiatives, HYA seeks to continue finding the “strengths of the district, which they will use to recruit candidates” and learn from the District 97 community what they are looking for in their next superintendent, said Siegfried.

During the Oct. 12 regular board meeting, HYA president Max McGee and Connie Collins, the firm’s senior associate, reported the results from the survey, focus groups and interviews held over the past couple months. Collins is herself a former District 97 superintendent.

According to data collected by HYA, 1,474 participants – a majority of whom are parents who have children in the district – took the online survey, which sought to offer insight into issues facing the district. What’s more is that of that total number, 1,290 respondents sent in written comments. Aside from parents, school faculty and staff, district administrators and Oak Park residents and a handful of students responded to the survey, McGee and Collins said.

On top of that, HYA also spoke to 100 stakeholders, including district administration, school principals, community partners and members of D97’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).

Among the firm’s findings, McGee said D97 received positive ratings, as participants believed the district employed effective teachers, offered quality education and often worked to help students feel like they belonged. Respondents also noted that D97 is supportive of and encourages parent engagement.

As for the district’s challenges, participants noted that transparency and communication are at the top, Collins said. Collins shared further that people commented on the number of “highly engaged parents” who feel “entitled” and the need to create a plan or strategy on achieving equity and closing the opportunity gap.

With that, Collins said members of the D97 community want a superintendent who is prepared to work with a diverse group of students and families, can form authentic relationships with all stakeholders and take active steps toward helping young students with their futures.

District 97 is accepting applications for the superintendent position until Oct. 24. HYA has already held screening interviews with potential candidates, Siegfried said. She also said a summary of the findings from the Oct. 20 forum will be unveiled at the Oct. 26 Board of Education meeting. 

For more information on the Oct. 20 community forum or the district’s superintendent search, visit www.op97.org/boe/superintendent-search.

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