'Polarized' politics play a role? Antioch District 34 superintendent leaving a year early

In a decision that appeared as tough to make as for the school board to accept, Brad Hubbard, superintendent of Antioch Elementary District 34, has resigned effective June 30.

Hubbard had been principal at Antioch High School and assistant superintendent of curriculum for Antioch Community High School District 117 before being hired under a three-year contract as the top administrator in District 34. He'll be leaving with a year left on that contract.

A specific reason for the pending departure wasn't given. However, in a message to community, the school board said it deeply regretted Hubbard's decision and "tried hard" to persuade him to stay.

The board said it respected Hubbard's choice to pursue other professional opportunities but cited an increasingly "polarized and politicized" attitude in public education, including District 34 for the move.

"Unfortunately, lately, public forums designed to encourage discussion about important matters facing our district have too often devolved into disparaging and unwarranted personal attacks and falsehoods that have also been amplified on social media," the board said.

"There can be little doubt that this contributed to Dr. Hubbard's decision to leave Antioch 34," the message reads.

As in other districts, a return to in-person learning and mask mandates at times were divisive topics at District 34 board meetings. But what may have driven Hubbard out was not specified, and he declined to comment beyond the statements that were released.

Hubbard, in a resignation letter released Monday evening, told the school board he had "an incredibly heavy heart and many mixed emotions" about the move.

"Leaving the district is an incredibly difficult decision for me and my family," he wrote.

In a message to faculty and staff, Hubbard said he wasn't usually at a loss for words but was struggling to find the best ones.

"Being trusted to sit in this seat over the course of the last two years is the biggest honor of my professional life," he wrote.

"During an unspeakably challenging, difficult and uncertain time, we partnered to do what was best and right for, with, and on behalf of our students and community," he said.

The school board said Hubbard showed "exceptional educational leadership" and a "heartfelt commitment to our students and schools."

He was praised for a variety of achievements during his tenure including negotiating five-year contracts with teachers and support personnel; securing a grant to replace student and staff iPads this summer; receiving awards for science, technology, engineering and mathematics programming; and significantly increasing the number and types of community partnerships focused on meeting the needs of students and families.

Hubbard and his team also instituted full-day kindergarten, opened an early learning center for pre-K programs and welcomed students to newly renovated neighborhood elementary schools, according to the board's message to the community.

The search for a replacement will begin this week. The board in the message to the community also called for "a return to civility and respect."

A renewed and singular focus on what's best for schools and students is essential to attracting and retaining skilled, compassionate leaders and educators, the board said.

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