What District 89 candidates want in a new superintendent
School board members in Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 are zeroing in on their choice for a new superintendent.
The board selected three finalists from a field of six candidates recommended by a superintendent search firm. The board has finished interviewing the front-runners.
"Across the board, all seven of us said while we had favorites in those three, we felt that all three were highly qualified," board member Scott Pope said.
The monthslong search for the district's next leader has coincided with a crowded school board race. Six candidates are chasing three board seats up for election on April 4. Pope, fellow incumbent Yannick Koger and newcomer Jessica McGee are running on one slate. Challengers Scott Waldbusser, Kevin McGrane and Juan Peralta have formed an opposing slate.
Departing Superintendent Emily Tammaru announced in December she's taking the same job in Northbrook-Glenview District 30.
"Do I feel like this process was rushed? I do," Peralta said in a recent forum before the Daily Herald Editorial Board. "Do I wish they would have waited for the new candidates? Yeah."
Incumbents counter that they didn't want to miss out on qualified candidates. For comparison's sake, District 30 nearly a year ago launched a superintendent's search that led to Tammaru's selection.
"We're not rushing to appoint the superintendent prior to that election or anything like that," said Pope, a board member since 2015. "We believe our process was fair and unbiased. So any selection that the board has made, we believe that any new candidate or any new board members, hopefully, will respect the process that we did. It was a robust process."
Pope said Monday the hope is to have a new superintendent seated at either the April or May board meeting, in advance of Tammaru's scheduled departure this summer.
"We may as a board want to think about whether, depending on the outcome of the election, whether they want to wait until the May board meeting just so new board members can put their vote of confidence in on the superintendent," Pope said.
Search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates also advised the board that time is of the essence.
"When you talk to the consultants, the number of candidates that are applying for these positions is getting smaller and smaller just because of the greater responsibility and everything that's going on with the political polarization of school boards and everything like that," Pope said.
The other option was to wait and end up with an interim leader for a year, Koger said.
"But even as it stands with selecting a candidate in March and then seating them likely in April, there's a two-month window in which we can transition our prior leader who has been there for numerous years, so the decision was made to move more quickly while incorporating as much feedback as possible," said Koger, who was appointed to the board in 2021. "I believe that that's the appropriate process to take versus going after a pool of candidates that's shrinking by the day."
As the search headed into the home stretch, the school board hopefuls described their ideal school chief in a joint Daily Herald interview earlier this month.
"What I want to see in the next superintendent is someone who really wants the input of parents and teachers," McGrane said. "Right now, I think that's said in name only."
Waldbusser said the next superintendent should have an openness to new ideas.
"It's OK to go outside the boundaries of D89 to see what's worked elsewhere," he said.
Waldbusser and Peralta also said they want an effective communicator with parents and teachers. Peralta suggested the new superintendent keep an open-door policy with teachers.
"I think so many issues and problems could be resolved if lines of communication were clear, if they would appear open, if it appeared that all information was being presented when parents and, again, all stakeholders in the community, were looking for it," Waldbusser said.
McGee said she values a leader with administrative experience in an elementary and middle school district. Another desirable quality?
"I think someone that has a lot of experience with systemwide changes as we're looking at our academics and mental health and SEL (social emotional learning) needs," McGee said.
The top three vote-getters in the race will win 4-year terms on the board.