D97 supt. search - staff want insider, parents someone new

Both Julian principal and asst. supt. for curriculum interested in the job

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First reported 5/11/2010 2:00 p.m.

District 97 staff would like an internal hire for superintendent while parents want someone from outside, according to feedback from the community provided to the district's search firm.

Two community forums took place on May 4 and 5 at the two middle schools. Both, according to the district's search firm, were sparsely attended. Slightly over a dozen people showed up at Brooks last Wednesday. The forums were for people to express what qualities they want in the next superintendent. People can also provide input by filling out a leadership profile at the district's Web site.

Bill Attea, a consultant with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, said a few staff members attended, as did a very small number of minority parents. An e-mail glitch resulted in notices sent to teachers a day before the first forum, Attea said, which might explain the low turnout.

Those parents and staff that did show offered opposing views. Attea stressed that there were parents who preferred hiring from within and staff who supported looking externally. But he said there was, "significant support for internal candidates and significant support to go outside the district."

"There obviously is a high comfort level with internal candidates from many of the staff members, and an equally proportionate urging to go outside the district for a fresh start by many parents and community members," Attea said.

Two internal candidates have already expressed interest: Kevin Anderson, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, and Victoria Sharts, principal at Percy Julian Middle School. Both have their superintendent certification. Anderson told Wednesday Journal this week that he has applied to replace Supt. Constance Collins, who's taking over as superintendent in Round Lake School Dist. 116 in July.

Anderson said he's happy in his current job but wanted to put his hat in the ring. He's applied previously for superintendent posts elsewhere, including earlier this spring in Broadview's Lindop School District 92. Sharts has been principal at Julian since 1995. Last fall, she informed the district of her intention to retire in the next three years.

Preliminary results from the forums were presented by the firm at a special board meeting on May 6. Attea noted that a question about having previous experience as a superintendent skewed low among responses, in part due to people campaigning for internal candidates. Some people also felt the search was going too fast and want the board to take its time.

With the low turnout at last week's forums, the sessions seemed more like focus groups. Brooks hosted its talk in the cafeteria where people discussed the pro and cons of the school district, and their desired leadership qualities. Attea said there were plenty of good ideas but warned the board to not become overwhelmed.

"Everybody in Oak Park think they've got the right solution for everything, and probably if you took the best of everyone's suggestions you'd have an outstanding solution. But the problem is: you can not absorb all the good ideas in reality," he said. "One of the problems you could have is being drawn to a stalemate trying to please everyone. You're not going to be able to, and we're not going to be able to find you the type of candidate everybody wants."

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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