Brooks middle school principal resigns

Sindelar's last day is June 30; Search for new principal starts immediately


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

District 97 Supt. Albert Roberts now has two significant hires on his hands following the resignation last week of Tom Sindelar as Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School principal.

A PTO leader at the school said parents were feeling both surprise and sadness at news of Sindelar's departure.

Hired in 2005, Sindelar took over as principal following the tumultuous ouster by the school board of his predecessor, Flora Green. Victoria Sharts, principal of Percy Julian Middle School, 416 S. Ridgeland, is scheduled to retire at the end of this school year after 16 years. Sindelar departs as Roberts looks to reshape both Brooks and Julian into what he calls "world class middle schools."

Roberts says he expects to bring a Julian principal finalist to the board by June, but he's yet to say when the Brooks finalist can be expected. But Roberts says he's looking for candidates who are focused on student achievement, sets high-expectations for kids and staff, and who are also "risk-takers."

"I want someone who's willing to stick their neck out a little bit and take some risks in terms of making sure we are being transparent; that we are communicating with the community about our strengths and about what we need to do to be better," he said.

Sindelar submitted his resignation to the school board on March 14, but no reason has been given as to what prompted the move. Sindelar will stay on through June 30. In a statement released by the district last week, Sindelar said the resignation came after "much careful consideration."

"While leaving here will not be easy, I do so knowing that the accomplishments we have amassed during my tenure have positioned this school to be successful for years to come," he said. "My primary focus from now until my last day...will be to continue the important work we do each and every day to meet the needs of the families we serve."

Roberts released a statement last week as well following the announcement, thanking Sindelar for his "significant contributions" to Brooks, 325 S. Kenilworth. Roberts added that the search for a new principal will begin "immediately."

"We are reviewing the options available for filling this position, and will work closely and collaboratively with our various stakeholders to identify a candidate who possesses the qualities and characteristics necessary to build on Brooks' history," Roberts said.

Brooks' PTO co-president Alanna Sullivan said there was a general feeling of surprise among families regarding Sindelar's resignation. At a PTO meeting last Thursday March 15, Sullivan described the mood as a mix of sadness and some surprise. There was also, she added, a feeling of "determination" as parents embark on the process of selecting "the right person to serve as our next principal."

"Although we are sad to see Mr. Sindelar leave, we all look forward to working closely with Supt. Roberts and the school staff to help select the next person who will help us build on Brooks' history of success," Sullivan said.

Brooks' PTO, she adds, has created a survey among parents concerning characteristics they're looking for in a new leader. Sullivan said those results should be completed by Friday, March 23.

For the Julian position, the district has received 74 applications. The district says the number they previously released, 131 applications, was incorrect, caused by "miscommunication" with its human resources department.

Sharts is one of the district's longest serving principals at 16 years. Prior to his 2005 arrival at Brooks, Sindelar was principal of River Grove Elementary School, as well as Golf Middle School in Morton Grove.

Reader Comments

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Hawthorne Alum from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2012 9:29 PM

Both Parents' comments show clearly the need to eliminate the middle school model entirely. It has never made sense to rip kids from the neighborhood school in grade 6, and place them in a HS-like atmosphere. There is no good defense for was only done to copy California, whose system has imploded. Return to K-8 neighborhood schools.

Another Parent, Different Choice from OP  

Posted: March 20th, 2012 1:27 PM

@Parent Also: But the schools have to show that they welcome parental involvement and that they own their problems and challenges. Neither middle school in OP seems to have much control over the goings-on and teachers seem to shrug when you ask why things are done a particular way. My family opted out and sent our kids to private school because of the lack of engagement from some teachers and the lack of basic discipline school-wide. All those tax dollars and we can't put it all together? Sad

Parent also   

Posted: March 20th, 2012 12:50 PM

It is funny how people judge teachers who have no clue what goes on in a school. Teachers have the most critical job in our society. They should not be held accountable when nothing gets reinforced at home. Both principals did a wonderful job in a very demanding community. Stop bullying schools and work with them.


Posted: March 20th, 2012 10:06 AM

Its not just advisory that the teachers aren't prepared for. A few teachers do an excellent job, but most seem to think they are still teaching elementary school - just to bigger and less obedient kids. Its time to hold middle school teachers accountable for improving academic achievement and working with kids in a constructive, not demeaning, way.

jk from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2012 8:29 AM

You are right, Hawthorn. The middle school model is questionable at best. At the very least, it was a model that was poorly implemented in OP. It hinges on the "Advisory" class, which teachers were unprepared and untrained for.

Hawthorne Alum from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 2:24 PM

The Middle Schools never should have been created in the first place. It was a stupid idea that was implemented as a knee-jerk imitation of California. Well, how's that working out? Answer..awfully. Let's end this failed 1970's experiment and return each school to K-8, build neighborhood and school pride, and eliminate much of the nonsense. Back to the future.


Posted: March 18th, 2012 9:05 AM

In my experience Mr. Sindelar was a really nice man who had students' best interests at heart. BUT he had very limited ability/desire to influence, much less have authority over, teachers - who more or less ran amok. If he had been willing to take the stand to implement what students need it would be a much better school.

Concerned soon-to-be Brooks parent  

Posted: March 17th, 2012 4:24 PM

Can someone shed light on what the principal and superintendent may have disagreed about?

brooks parent  

Posted: March 16th, 2012 2:44 PM

If this was Roberts decision, then my opinion of him has turned for the better. Good riddance.


Posted: March 15th, 2012 7:44 PM

This is very sad news, indeed! Something is wrong!!! I have heard that Mr. Sindelar was a great principal! This is totally wrong.

Debbie Mercer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2012 4:43 PM

Both my kids attended Brooks while Mr. Sindelar was principal. He had a clear vision of how a middle school should function and worked hard to see that Brooks functioned that way. He will be missed.

Fire Roberts  

Posted: March 15th, 2012 4:03 PM

Roberts is the one that needs to go. We need him out of town before he further destroys D97 and costs us more money.


Posted: March 15th, 2012 3:59 PM

Roberts is cleaning house.


Posted: March 15th, 2012 1:42 PM

What happened?

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