Just weeks left in the long, respected and loved tenure of John Hodge as principal of Oak Park’s Irving School. A tree was planted at the school, 1125 S. Cuyler Ave., last week as a way to remember a person who has made true impact on a school and its neighborhood.

Never, ever listen to those who question the power for good that a determined, welcoming, steady principal makes in the complex life of a school. It is oversized.

Beyond thanking Mr. Hodge for his service, we’d make this note on the first-time principal appointments effectively driven by Ushma Shah, District 97’s incoming superintendent. Good job. Promoting two veterans of the district reflects respect for home-grown talent, rewards colleagues who have already been “vetted” by their school communities.

Susan Mura will replace Hodge at Irving, having spent four years as the school’s assistant principal. Cheryl Sullivan will be the principal at Beye School, 230 N. Cuyler, after having served as co-interim principal in the school year now ending.

Beye is an example of the revolving principal problem that D97 has suffered through for several years. We believe that problem started at the top with a former superintendent who ran a too-top-heavy administration and who lacked a feel for when a neighborhood school was humming and why.

A principal with an ability to engage the faculty, to connect with school families, to fix problems with transparency and celebrate small successes will make any superintendent shine.

It’s early. Shah doesn’t go on the payroll until summer. But we have a good feeling that the new superintendent will be more plain-spoken, more visible in our schools and neighborhoods and more collegial in her leadership.

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