District 65 narrows search for superintendent


Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

District 65 board president Suni Kartha. Kartha announced the district has narrowed its search for a new superintendent.

Samantha Handler, City Editor

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 narrowed the search for a new superintendent to five candidates who will interview with the board this week, according to a statement from Board president Suni Kartha.

Kartha announced on Nov. 6 that the search firm the district hired to find a new superintendent had presented the board with a report on 31 candidates in late October and recommended five for interviews. The board will interview the candidates during closed session meetings from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14.

Kartha said in the statement that the district intends to narrow the pool to two or three candidates, conduct a second round of interviews the first week of December and anticipates announcing the new superintendent in January.

“The Board remains committed to a transparent process that is inclusive of community voice,” Kartha said in the statement. “We are thoughtfully considering opportunities to obtain additional input while respecting the confidentiality requested by the candidates in order to remain in our search process.”

The search comes after former superintendent Paul Goren formally announced his resignation in June. Goren, a long term resident, served as superintendent for five years. Stacy Beardsley, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, was appointed as interim superintendent for the summer break.

Phil Ehrhardt and Heidi Wennstrom now serve as co-interim superintendents for the 2019-20 academic year.
A community report released in September based on a survey of 1,040 participants showed residents want interpersonal skills, knowledge of climate issues and communications skills in the next superintendent.

The report also said district residents are looking for a “visionary” superintendent who is committed to racial equity and restorative practices. At a school board meeting Sept. 23, parents and educators asked the board to prioritize equity in the search.

District 65 has long struggled to close opportunity gaps between white and black students. Last January, the latest Measures of Academic Progress results showed no black students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh grades met the college readiness benchmark in math or reading. There are 541 students enrolled at King Arts, which is located in the 5th Ward, and black and white students each make up roughly one-third of the student population, according to the 2017-2018 Illinois Report Card.

In the search firm’s final report, which Kartha said the board received on Oct. 28, the consultants said the final candidates meet at least 85 percent of the criteria from the September community report.

Of the 31 total initial candidates, eight are currently superintendents, 20 are from Illinois and 10 hold doctorate degrees. The report did not disclose race, age or gender identity of the candidates.

“These persons, in our professional judgment, best meet the leadership characteristics and criteria published by the Board in the vacancy announcement and were best matches to the Leadership Profile,” the search firm said in the report.
The Organization for Positive Action and Leadership — a grassroots-based Evanston group working toward racial equity — says on their website that they plan to hold community engagement events regarding the superintendent search.

“Choosing the right superintendent will be vital in closing the achievement gap,” OPAL said on their website.

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Twitter: @sn_handler