By Terry Dean
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.
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