New principal named at Walker Elementary School in Skokie

Audrey Cheng

Washington Elementary School’s assistant principal will become principal of Walker Elementary School on July 1.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Hardy Murphy announced April 23 that Erik Friedman will replace outgoing Principal Karen Evans. Walker’s PTA as well as representatives from the staff and teacher’s organization all contributed to the final decision. The process took about two months, Murphy said.

Murphy said he recommended Friedman to replace Principal Evans for a multitude of reasons.

“Because of Eric’s commitment to children and educational excellence, he works well with families, he’s engaging, he’s highly professional, very smart, and he understands how to support teachers,” Murphy said. “I believe he will be able to motivate and engage the community and build upon the successes that they have experienced thus far.”

Friedman has served as assistant principal at the south Evanston school for the last two years, and although Friedman has had limited administrative experience, Murphy said Friedman has proven he is ready to be a principal.

“(Friedman’s) been an important part in helping to lead Washington School,” Murphy said. “It is a school that has made considerable success and has even turned around in the last several years. He understands the parent population. He’s been given nothing but high marks from people who have worked with him, and I think he has a lot of demonstrated capabilities.”

Friedman said he believes his experience at Washington will help him ease into his new principal role at Walker. His current responsibilities include “managing students, working with the staff, attending a lot of instructional meetings, looking at school-wide achievement data and supervision of staff,” Friedman said.

Walker PTA President Sharon Robinson said despite Friedman’s familiarity with D65, Walker’s diverse population may serve as a challenge to the new principal.

“Our school is extremely culturally diverse,” Robinson said. “We’re one of the most widely diverse schools in Evanston. Any child that doesn’t speak English as a primary language aside from Spanish in their home comes to Walker because we have the resources and the support for those students. With that comes an amazing enrichment of culture and diversity that I think can be challenging as an administrator.

She added diversity is one of Walker Elementary School’s greatest appeals. But in order for Friedman to be successful in such a diverse environment, Robinson said the new principal must be “identifiable and relatable” to the parent and student populations.

Robinson added that she was “devastated” when she found out Evans was retiring.

“I’ll never forget it,” Robinson said. “She sent us a very routine email and towards the bottom, announced that she would be retiring towards the end of the year. Tears just started forming in my eyes. I was completely shocked. None of us saw it coming at all.”

Under Evans’ leadership, Walker was awarded a Blue Ribbon Award in 2011. The state of Illinois issues these awards to schools that have narrowed their achievement gap in the state test scores, meaning that there was no difference in scores between the low-income and high-income students.

Robinson said Evans took Walker to “another level” and that Friedman will have “great shoes to fill.”

Friedman said he is excited to join the Walker community.

“There’s a lot of familiarity there, and I’m just looking forward to all the successes we will have,” Friedman said.

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