District 73 superintendent leaving for Indiana

Hawthorn Elementary District 73 Superintendent Nick Brown is leaving for another position in Merrillville, Indiana.

He's signed to a three-year contract with the Merrillville Community School Corp. effective July 1, a move prompted by a desire to be closer to family, he said.

His departure comes at a pivotal time in District 73 as it considers asking voters for money to address space needs and has proposed a new $12 million kindergarten center. The district also has been in negotiations with teachers for a new contract.

Brown said he has been considering options for some time and there was no impetus from District 73 to move along.

"Not at all. We've got a great community, a great district. The administrative team is just top-notch," he said.

"It was a very difficult decision to make. Nothing there is bad, it's all good," he added.

Board President Sonali Patil was not available for comment.

District 73 is continuing a series of community meetings to determine whether and how much it should seek from voters to address space needs in its six schools.

A $42 million request to voters in April 2017 was soundly defeated, but space needs remain an issue, Brown and others have emphasized.

Also looming is a proposed $12 million kindergarten building to be attached to the Vernon Hills Park District's Sullivan Center off Aspen Drive.

As a sign of good faith to voters, the school board agreed to pay for that project with reserves. Construction bids recently came in about $2.7 million higher than expected.

Potential revisions to the plan were discussed by the board May 14, and the district's architect is preparing information on how any changes to the proposed 18-room addition would affect the building design.

"We're kind of at the discretion of the school board and what they want to do moving forward," said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director of the park district. "We'd like to see it advance."

Brown came to District 73 in 2012 from Porter Township School Corp. in Indiana, which had less than half the approximate 4,000 enrollment in District 73. Merrillville had 6,528 students in 2017-18.

Though he still had another year on his contract, the District 73 board in March 2017 extended Brown's contract another two years to June 30, 2020.

That move was regarded as a vote of confidence during a critical period. According to the district release announcing Brown's departure, an interim superintendent will be hired "to support the district for the next year." A search firm "to help find the right superintendent candidate for the district" will be hired, according to the district.

Brown's base salary for this year is $211,657. The contract in Merrillville will be $155,000 per year, according to a published report.

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