Bessie Rhodes School principal leaves in midst of 2-way immersion program transition


Daily file photo by Oreste Visentini

Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies, 3701 Davis St. The former principal Lauren Norwood left the school on Friday for an administrative position with Chicago Public Schools.

Catherine Henderson, Assistant City Editor

Principal Lauren Norwood left the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies on Friday, leaving behind a school in the middle of transitioning its entire curriculum to bilingual learning.

Norwood took an administrative position in Chicago Public Schools, according to an email, obtained by The Daily, sent from Evanston/Skokie School District 65 to parents on Jan. 11. The email said the assistant principal at Bessie Rhodes, Matt Condon, will serve as the interim principal until the district comes up with a “full transition plan.”

District superintendent Paul Goren told The Daily he is committed to finding the “best possible” principal for Bessie Rhodes and added he would like to see a bilingual administrator step into the position.

“We wish (Norwood) well on this exciting new opportunity,” Goren said. “As she departs, we can look for a long term principal.”

Norwood and Condon did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In December 2017, the District 65 board voted to expand the Two-Way Immersion program to Bessie Rhodes, starting next school year with the kindergarten class. Two-Way Immersion program is designed to increase bilingualism and cultural awareness between English speakers and Spanish speakers in class together.

Goren said the district has looked at expanding the Two-Way Immersion program for years because the demand is high in Evanston and nationally. This year, the board took action to expand the program when they had been hesitant in previous years, he said.

The email to parents said the district is working to make sure “school operations continue as usual.” Goren also said the transition could be an opportunity to focus on the Two-Way Immersion transition and find a “new school leader.” However, he also emphasized Norwood’s leaving had nothing to do with changes at Bessie Rhodes; it was because she was offered a position at CPS “that she couldn’t really turn down.”

Some parents oppose the Two-Way Immersion program, according to Henry Wilkins, a parent at Bessie Rhodes. He said he was “frustrated” with Norwood’s response to the Two-Way Immersion expansion at Bessie Rhodes, as he wanted her to respond to questions and seek input from parents about the changes.

“Whoever comes in will have to get up to speed on the school as well as implementing a major change,” Wilkins said. “At the same time, the person that they might bring in might be better capable with the transition. I can’t say one way or the other.”

Parents have struggled to get in contact with Norwood over the past couple weeks, Wilkins said. Still, he said he wishes her the best.

Goren said changes in schools are always hard, but that he feels after four years as superintendent that moving forward on expanding two-way immersion is important to the district.

Wilkins said he plans to move his daughter to Walker Elementary School in the fall. He said the situation at Bessie Rhodes is “going to get worse before it gets better.”

“We put our child in a school that we thought would be stable,” Wilkins said. “We already know that teachers are planning to leave starting next year. … We have concerns about our daughter.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @caity_henderson