Principal's post eliminated at OPRF

School board eliminates position to make space for equity director

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park River Forest High School Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams has released an organizational chart for the 2019-20 school year, but with a notable exclusion – the position of principal.

The announcement at the March 21 meeting of the District 200 school board comes just a few days after OPRF Principal Nate Rouse announced his resignation for an unnamed "exciting school program director position."

Pruitt-Adams also announced the promotion of Assistant Superintendent Greg Johnson to the role of associate superintendent, which will include many duties traditionally handled by the principal.

The new organizational chart allows the district to establish a new position – executive director of equity and student learning. This will make the change "cost neutral," according to Pruitt-Adams.

A press release announcing the restructuring states that the district is committed to implementing a racial equity framework throughout the school district. That includes racial equity coaches for teachers, training in restorative justice practices and the execution of a new racial equity policy.

"This structure is, admittedly, somewhat unconventional," Pruitt-Adams said in the press release. "But OPRF is not a conventional district. This is a forward-thinking structure that will allow us to transform the way we do teaching and learning in this school."

Pruitt-Adams said the district is developing a document for parents and staff to answer frequently asked questions such as who parents should turn to instead of contacting the principal.

"We have an opportunity for transformation, and I wholeheartedly believe that this new structure will take us where we want to go," Pruitt-Adams said. "Change is difficult, even when it's positive change, and I ask our school community to stay open to the possibilities."

tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Rob Ruffulo  

Posted: March 24th, 2019 6:25 AM

Ridiculous. OPRF is a complete joke. New position total waste of money. Superintendent new job description: "Keep everybody happy"

Terence Jones  

Posted: March 23rd, 2019 11:05 PM

Face it people. We no longer want to educate, only validate.

Edwin Haag  

Posted: March 23rd, 2019 3:23 PM

I would be curious to see what the goals/objectives of the Equity Director will be and in what time frame said goals/objectives are to be met. And if they arent met, what would the course of action be and will this person be held accountable if things don't improve.

Marc Martinez from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2019 9:52 AM

I am glad to see that the superintendent has acknowledged that there was no need for a principal. Too bad she and the board had also added the 'equity' position and a promotion, or we would have had a chance to reduce spending instead of being 'cost-neutral'. My guess is that she expects to ask for even more spending on equity and needed this for air cover. I guess we should be glad for at least the nod to taxpayers.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: March 23rd, 2019 3:37 AM

It's funny that over the years so many here have complained like crazy that D200 has both a superintendent and a principal and now that they are removing one of the positions those same people can't say anything good. The equity position was already happening. That was a done deal. We are actually getting that role without any cost increases now. I am pleasantly surprised that this is the outcome and happy the decision was made so quickly. Some people are never happy.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 5:16 PM

No David: the last Superintendent/Principal was Susan Bridge. I think she retired in 2008 or there abouts.

Kathy Müller  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:54 PM

Wasn't the point of the principal to be more focused on the students? How can that huge job be rolled into the associate superintendent job? I understand and fully support the creation of the Equity position, but with a school of this size, it seems that we are dividing up *more* tasks and responsibilities with fewer employees. That makes me nervous. We already have fewer counselors (and zero dedicated college admissions counselors) compared to other big local schools like New Trier. It feels to me that we might be trying to solve one very important problem but, in the process, creating others. Signed, a PhD in educational policy/admin

Chris Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:37 PM

@Leonard - Maybe you have a good point. Along with @Jim F. Maybe I didn't read enough - but what is the plan to fill those principal responsibilities? As JF stated - there are redundancies that could potentially catch the gaps in the director role. @Leonard - are you also referring to potentially combining D97 with D200? It does sometimes feel like the "corpus callosum" was cut and students may suffer from the result of poor communication and management.

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:31 PM

My wife Diana who spent 20+ years in genuine school reform and who wrote some of the real reform legislation in the 1980s, has long wondered why OPRF had both a principal and superintendent. She made a sound case for a school district with a single school not needing both. And just because some other districts have both -- that's no reason to emulate them. All too often governments around here tend to just copy what has been done elsewhere -- without bothering to evaluate whether or not it's been effective. There is nothing sacrosanct about having both a principal and superintendent. The real bottom line is that structure has far less influence on success than the individuals working for District 200. That's where the focus needs to be.

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:15 PM

Just what duties currently responsibilities of the principal will not be covered by the realignment of duties at OPRF? How many layers of bureaucracy are needed?

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 4:07 PM

Altho, to be fair, OP97 also apparently has associate superintendents, assistant superintendents, assistant principals, assistant to the assistant to the associate superintendents, etc., etc.

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 3:49 PM

High performing peers such as New Trier HS (4,000 students), Evanston HS (3,100 students), Glenbrook North & South (2,500 students each campus) all operate with a superintendent and principal(s) structure. Not sure why this seems like such a stretch for OPRF with its 3,200 student population.

David Gullo  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 3:13 PM

Some history here - OPRF once had a principal/superindendent...I think it was Don Offermann. Many people have wondered how/why a single school district has both positions. Perhaps this may be good move given the importance of equity & student learning. What is certainly not a good move is how D200 handled Nate Rouse's exit. Why isn't Pres Moore explaining this? Principal Rouse has done well in what probably is the most challenging education job in the State of Illinois. Best of luck in future endeavors Nate!

Chris Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 3:11 PM

@Teresa - Don't think I was belittling. As I have constantly said... there are issues and differences in how people are taught and treated. I've seen and heard of same "color" discrimination (not a black teacher, just fyi) in the schools. None of that is ok. No child/student will benefit from any of that. I think everyone agrees. I think the eye opener here is how a position for EDUCATION was just turned into a position for "equity." I'd love to complain even MORE about my 90% increase in property taxes in 5 years but I'd rather we pay for a principal and this new position. That link I shared was to highlight the extremes things can go to making sure we are ALL absolute equals. It goes down the road of affecting EVERYONE regardless of color. YES, I agree, level the playing field with tools and support for students from when they are babies. But gosh darnit if anybody (regardless of color, background, etc) cannot get the right grades for an AP course... THEY SHOULDN"T BE IN IT. Just like a soccer player that tries out. Football. Cheerleader. Artist. Pianist. Musician. American Idol (hah) People complain about affirmative action in universities but the number of Asians (nothing wrong with it) that flooded my university should have been a sticking point for parents NOT affirmative action (which was intended to try and balance scales ?" poorly designed. Goes back to NOT giving the right tools and support from infancy)... The schools going for money from "out of state" instead of in-state. And those of us in-state lose on the great education. No screaming about that? Listen - racism is rampant. Yes. On all sides of the spectrum. Placing black superintendents and principals isn't helping. Spending more money on teachers' salaries and asking them to get trained on things isn't helping. Will this Equity Director solve the problem at the expense of a principal? Can we get an Equity Director for approving home purchases in Oak Park? You and your family must be screened be

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 2:54 PM

The focal point of this story is NOT the new equity director position-- it's the fact that OPRF, a high school of over 3,200 students who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, does not have a single individual responsible for its academic, operational, financial, and cultural objectives. Whether intentional or no, the communication of this decision suggests that the one role (principal) is being swapped out for another (equity director.) They shouldn't be mutually exclusive.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 2:44 PM

Paying very close attention.

Teresa Powell  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 2:37 PM

I am pleased to read about this new position. Given the experiences shared by current high school students, this is sorely needed and important way to follow through on promises of addressing equity issues. Those who belittle the concept profit from curent inequity or just haven't been paying attention.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 2:19 PM

A Principal can only do so much. An Equity Director gets to do anything he or she desires , say it is about "equity" and then anyone questioning it will be automatically branded as a bad human being for even questioning it. No need for referendums or even discussions once this is fully implemented. Change is difficult, and resistance will be futile. The scary part is people thinking it is ok to do it this way, which is how we will get olympic pool's as equity projects.

Chris Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 2:15 PM

It dawned on me last night why I felt like every story I was reading reminded me of some other story from when I was younger. We read a short story by Kurt Vonnegut in high school (was actually the one that got me to read more of his books). http://wordfight.org/bnw/bnw-unit_packet.pdf (If you are worried about the link - search for "Harrison Bergeron PDF" by Kurt Vonnegut) That's not to say that there isn't some fixing that needs to happen to the whole school system. And I really should just spam that link to EVERY article on OP.com. Especially that one with Arti Walker-Peddakotia. Yikes - universal income heading this way (not spelled out that way in there... but just how it left me feeling).

Alex Garcia  

Posted: March 22nd, 2019 1:17 PM

So the position of principal is being eliminated in favor of a "director of equity". Ah, only in Oak Park (and possibly such places as Berkeley, CA).

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