Spotlight on District 109

Widespread community involvement made the Superintendent hiring process a very successful one.

A long time ago a Vice President of a company I worked for told me a story.  This guy was a “my way or the highway” type of guy.  He ruled his domain with an iron fist.  He told me that he had become involved in local government and it had really opened his eyes.  He said he couldn’t just force his will on people like he could at work.  He actually had to listen to others and work to build a consensus.  It certainly had an effect on him and he became much more of a collaborative leader.

We have a new superintendent in District 109 and I can proudly say that this was a choice that was made by an entire community.  It all started over a year ago as residents made their voices heard at board meetings during the teacher contract negotiations.  It opened the eyes of many people to the practices of the board of education and superintendent.  Some of you spoke up.  Some of you took another step and engaged board members.  And finally, some of you took the ultimate step and are on the ballot for the April BOE election.  You should all be proud of yourselves.

You may ask what actions were taken as a direct result of community involvement.

- Overwhelming community support for the teachers helped to avert a strike and brought an end to the stalemate.  Several important contract terms that had community support were included in the contract.

- A petition which described the community’s concerns in the Superintendent hiring process garnered 500+ signatures, or about one third of the families in the district.  This clearly showed the board that the community meant business, and was not satisfied with the BOE’s standard hiring process.

- The HR consultant selection process was made public.  The consultant held community forums and online surveys to determine the desired qualities of the next superintendent.  The resulting profile was made public.

- A community committee was adopted to interview the final three candidates and provide input to the board.  This committee consisted of parents, teachers, and administrators, including the caucus endorsed board candidates who will be working with the Superintendent over the next several years.

Make no mistake.  None of these things would have been accomplished without strong community input.  So does that mean that everyone should shake hands and wander off into the sunset?  Well, no, there’s still lots of work to be done.  The new board members need to put their money where their mouths are and stay connected to the people they represent.  The new Superintendent must
rebuild the trust between the district and the teachers and parents.  But most of all, the parents of the district (also known as the customers) need to make sure the district maintains that customer focus.  We saw what happened when that focus was lost and we don’t want to go there again.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

MSB January 10, 2013 at 06:32 PM
Thanks John for your continued involvement in bringing the issues up for public awareness. I am proud of the community for standing up to oppression and complacency exhibited by the current superintendent and board. Progress has been made on several fronts and these changes, although hard fought, were well worth it for our children and community. The changing of the guard should also be a welcomed improvement. There is still work to be done and I welcome the new superintendent to engage our children and community.
Steve S. January 10, 2013 at 07:43 PM
I agree, thanks John, your information and hard work really showed through here. You moved a community, keep up the good work, and Deerfield thanks you.
bg February 14, 2013 at 10:54 PM
So...what I remember is a small group of angry critics screaming at the BOE that they had no right to make any decisions, despite having been elected to do so. I also remember a petition which insisted that they stand down and put the District in limbo for a year by hiring an acting superintendent and kicking responsibility for hiring a permanent leader down the road to the next board. (One of the richer moments was when this group suggested that a retired assistant principal be rehired as acting Supt.) I think I also remember this group bemoaning as frivolous the fact that the BOE was going to spend $20K on a search consultant. But if it takes revisionist history to get you pissing out of the tent instead of into it, so be it...
John Russillo February 14, 2013 at 11:53 PM
Actually over 500 but who's counting? Just imagine what would have happened if those people hadn't spoken up. First off the whole process would have been private with no community input whatsoever. Based on the current board's recent hiring practices who knows who they would have chosen. Make no mistake, this process was open and above board ONLY because the community demanded it. Now, please by all means, show me where I've revised history and ill be happy to respond, if you have the guts to do so.


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