Citing work on curriculum and diversity, District 59 board hires new superintendent

  • Terri Bresnahan

    Terri Bresnahan

Updated 1/26/2021 4:38 PM

The Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 school board has hired Terri Bresnahan as its new superintendent, citing her work on curriculum, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion issues.

Bresnahan, currently superintendent in West suburban Berkeley Elementary District 87, will become the 10th superintendent in the 75-year history of District 59, and the first woman to lead the district. Her three-year contract, which had not yet been released by district officials on Tuesday, begins July 1.


School board President Janice Krinsky said Bresnahan will be paid a base salary of $235,000 and receive raises of 2.5% in the second and third years of the contract. She will also receive 20 vacation days, an automobile allowance, phone stipend, and standard district benefit package for administrators, under terms of the agreement.

Bresnahan will succeed Art Fessler, who said last summer that he planned to step down when his contract expires in June 2021.

The school board unanimously approved the hiring during a virtual committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday night.

The decision followed a series of virtual, closed session interviews with job candidates in November and December. The board contracted with School Exec Connect, an Oak Park-based search firm, to coordinate the search, which started in the fall with surveys, focus groups and open forums about characteristics and skills the District 59 community wanted to see in a new superintendent.

After that process, the search firm collected resumes from about 30 people who applied or were recruited by the search firm -- most of them from Illinois, but some out-of-state candidates as well, Krinsky said. The firm presented 10 candidates to the board to interview; after winnowing down that number to three and doing another round of interviews, the board made an offer to Bresnahan just before Christmas, Krinsky said.

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"When she applied for job and we interviewed her, it was very clear that she had not just the experience, but the demonstrated ability to help the district move forward in terms of curriculum and assessment, and communications and building trust with staff, families and the community," Krinsky said. "And her diversity, equity and inclusion work was particularly critical, because while the district has been on the forefront of that work and has been doing it for the last seven years, we need to move to the next level so that all children are really seen for who they are as individuals."

Krinsky said the board believes Bresnahan's work in a district with similar demographics will prepare her for her new job. District 87 educates about 2,500 students in six schools, according to state data. About 54% percent of those students come from low-income homes. District 59 educates about 6,400 students -- 56% deemed low-income -- in 14 schools, state data shows.

Krinsky said Bresnahan -- who has been superintendent in District 87 for six years and served as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction a year before that -- was able to significantly close the achievement gap there by conducting annual audits of curriculum and creating adoption cycles for curriculum and resources. It's a practice she plans to continue in District 59, Krinsky said.

Curriculum issues have been a recurring controversy during Fessler's tenure. After taking the helm in 2013, he revamped the curriculum to emphasize students' learning experiences over more traditional textbook approaches. The move faced criticism from a vocal group of parents and residents.


Bresnahan wasn't at the District 59 meeting Monday night -- she had a board meeting of her own in Berkeley -- but in a statement said she looks forward to the opportunity to serve the District 59 community.

Before her hiring in Berkeley, Bresnahan was director of technology in Park Ridge-Niles Elementary District 64, and held technology positions in Addison Elementary District 4, Wilmette-based Avoca Elementary District 37 and River Trails Elementary District 26 in Mount Prospect. She started her career in education as a middle school math teacher before becoming an elementary teacher in San Bernardino, California.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from the University of Illinois, a master of science in education in educational technology from Azusa Pacific University in California, a certificate of advanced study degree from National Louis University, and a doctor of education degree from National Louis University. She is a 1992 graduate of Palatine High School.

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