Hawthorn District 73 introduces new superintendent

An Indiana educator has been selected to lead Hawthorn Elementary District 73 beginning July 1.

Nicholas G. Brown was introduced to the community Monday by the board of the Vernon Hills-based district as the choice to succeed Superintendent Sue Zook, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

The announcement capped a nearly five-month search that attracted 67 applicants. The process also included an online survey and focus groups comprised of residents, parents, staff, administrators and school board members.

Six candidates were interviewed by the board in November and the field was narrowed to three finalists.

“He was the overwhelming choice of everyone who met him,” school board President Tim Shanahan said Tuesday. “He’s fun-loving, he’s smart, he’s focused but he’s very inclusive. You meet him and you want to talk to him. He just fits with the district.”

On Monday, the District 73 school board approved a three-year contract with Brown through June 30, 2015. The base salary for 2012-13 is $188,000 — slightly more than Zook’s current base of $186,300.

Brown’s contract calls for the salary in the second and third years to be negotiated based on a performance review, though it can’t be lower. He will be reimbursed up to $15,000 for moving expenses and nearly $405, plus mileage and lodging, for every day he visits District 73 before his contract begins.

Brown, an Indiana native, began his career as a special education instructional assistant, taught for seven years and became a principal in 1998.

Since July 2005, he has been superintendent at Porter Township School Corporation, outside Valparaiso in northwest Indiana.

Shanahan said Brown’s range of experience, learner-centered philosophy and understanding of District 73 made him an overwhelming choice.

“The diversity, dual language program, student-focused staff, and great community are all so attractive to me as a superintendent I had to try for the job,” Brown said in an email Tuesday after a morning tour of Hawthorn schools.

The Porter Township district has about 1,500 students in four schools — two elementary, one middle and a high school — and a budget of about $15 million.

District 73 is a K-8 district with about 4,000 students in seven schools and a budget of nearly $52 million.

Porter had gone through a rough patch in recent years after a $2 million drop in state funding.

Teachers and aides were released but programs were not cut, according to Aline Busse, business manager/treasurer.

The district has rebounded and has a $500,000 cash balance.

District 73 is in good shape financially but continues to scrutinize expenses and revenues.

Because it continues to grow, space also is an issue for the district, which is considering a full-day, tuition-based kindergarten.

Busse described Brown as “not only a visionary but a great person.”

“We three girls, who have been working here (in the administrative office) the last six years, are really bummed that he’s going,” she added.

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