Glen Ellyn District 41 superintendent search: What to expect

  • Paul Gordon

      Paul Gordon Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer, October 2018

 
 
Updated 1/22/2019 7:22 PM

A Libertyville firm will conduct the national search for a Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 superintendent as the move to replace Paul Gordon deepens a rift on the school board.

Board members voted 4-3 Monday to allow Gordon's contract to expire in late June over the protests of supporters who sought for months to keep him at the helm.

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The same board majority also decided to hire search consultants from BWP & Associates at a cost of up to $18,000, unless the board authorizes additional fees.

While the fallout over Gordon's departure could dominate a five-way race for three available board seats in the April 2 election, the search for his successor likely will begin in earnest if board members stick to an initial deadline consultants inadvertently divulged Monday.

Board President Stephanie Clark said the firm indicated a superintendent selection could be made in eight to 10 weeks, but members have to "work out all those details." Clark, Kurt Buchholz, Bruce Currie and Linda D'Ambrosio voted in favor of the search.

"If you're original intent was to finish by spring break, then this process needs to get moving," said BWP President and former Libertyville Elementary District 70 Superintendent Mark Friedman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Along with Friedman, two other firm consultants -- Benjamin Elementary District 25 Superintendent Philip Ehrhardt, who is retiring in June, and Hazel Crest School District 152½ Superintendent Sheila Harrison-Williams -- outlined a recruitment process that will start with advertising the vacancy on the websites of the company and the Illinois Association of School Administrators.

Consultants could screen candidates by late February after gathering community and board input about their ideal leader.

"If those timelines and those numbers aren't compatible with your thinking, we're available to make those work a little bit differently," Friedman told the board. "But is it doable? Yes."

Gordon's board critics have not explicitly explained the reasoning for the split, fueling accusations the decision was politically motivated. The board members who want a new superintendent have had long-simmering issues with programming evaluations and a curriculum overhaul first developed by Gordon's predecessor.

"This isn't about a decision about programming," Clark said. "It's not personal. ... I think we work with Paul in a different capacity than the community does, and that's the best way I can explain it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The board's longest-serving member, Erica Nelson, unsuccessfully motioned to extend Gordon's contract for one more year. She painted a picture of Gordon's relationship with the board majority, objecting to "uncivil comments toward the superintendent" and a "degrading of communication processes among board members and instances with the administration."

Nelson suggested those board members were micromanagers who, at times, let "personal opinion on administrative researched recommendations" take precedence.

With Gordon in charge, the district is "continually moving forward," said Nelson, who highlighted accomplishments echoed by parents and teachers. Those include "model programs" of daily foreign language and dual-language and improvements in closing achievement gaps. The district, Nelson said, has the highest possible financial rating by Moody's.

Clark said the board couldn't say more as a "matter of privacy" and out of respect for Gordon's efforts to seek employment elsewhere after nearly six years in the district.

"I wish Paul all the best. I may not agree with him on everything, and I can assure you that I'm trying to make a decision that is best for the kids in our district," Clark said during a board meeting that lasted more than six hours. "That is what I'm using to guide my decision. Maybe for saying that, I won't be here in the future. But I know that is truly the heart of why I'm making a decision that I'm making, and I cannot give you all much more than that as an explanation."

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