Q&A: Dist. 62 interim superintendent on leading after scandal

  • Des Plaines Elementary District 62 Interim Superintendent Paul Hertel says he's open to filling the job on a permanent basis. "I would love the opportunity, but I do understand if the board has different ideas," he said.

      Des Plaines Elementary District 62 Interim Superintendent Paul Hertel says he's open to filling the job on a permanent basis. "I would love the opportunity, but I do understand if the board has different ideas," he said. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted1/22/2018 5:30 AM

In the wake of sexual harassment allegations that led Des Plaines Elementary District 62 Superintendent Floyd Williams Jr. to resign, the school board in November chose longtime administrator Paul Hertel to lead the district.

Hertel, who will serve as interim superintendent through the 2018-2019 school year, joined the district as its human resources director in 2006. He spent nearly two decades in Elgin Area School District U-46, getting his start as a teacher in the school he attended as a child and later becoming a principal.

 

He recently sat down with the Daily Herald to discuss his new role, his work to steer the district through a tumultuous period and his focus on a new strategic planning process. The strategic plan will set the district's vision for the next five years.

Q: What initiatives will you continue? What new vision do you want to bring to the district?

A: Right now I've just slid in the seat and the idea is don't sink the ship, just kind of keep it floating. They used the term 'interim,' and that's really what it is. It's in here just trying to keep things moving forward, just keep things progressing very nicely.

Q: Do you want to be the permanent superintendent?

A: Really in my role, I've always had the same answer: I serve on behalf of the board of education. If they would like that, I am very much open to that. However, I am very comfortable with what role they want me to have. I'm in a very good place. If I was like 43, it would be very different because I'd have a long ways to go. I don't have that far to go. Yes, I'm happy to serve. I would be honored. I would love the opportunity, but I do understand if the board has different ideas.

Q: How can the district instill confidence that it addresses sexual harassment complaints in a timely and professional manner?

A: We always take those very seriously. We do have policies in place. Every year we do training on anywhere from 10 to 14 global compliance tutorials -- anywhere from blood-borne pathogens to discrimination, general harassment, sexual harassment. We've met with our student-teachers every year for the past three or four years because we felt that was a group being missed.

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I think we have good things in place. We were at a meeting the other night, and I think a parent asked something similar. One of our teachers responded and went through what I just shared. She goes, "I feel safe. I feel secure. We do have to do those videos that Paul said. We know who to call." So our staff has certainly been trained on that.

What happened between the superintendent and the board, it's a different relationship. We've got probably 900 employees. Out of the 900 employees, there's one person who's the outlier and that's the superintendent. That's a relationship between the superintendent and the board. Everybody else falls under the superintendent.

Q: What is the district's biggest strength?

A: I would say our greatest strength is our staff and our relationships. We have great relationships with our associations. We can dialogue. We sometimes get mad and frustrated with each other, but at the end of the day it's not personal. It's just we're both advocating for what we feel is important. Through that dialogue, there's not a problem we can't solve. I think if you ask our associations that same question they would probably say the same thing.

Q: What are the district's challenges today?

A: I would say it's trying to do more with less resources, never knowing what's going to happen with the dollars. All those things that can impact how we do business and how we handle the taxpayers dollar to come up with fair agreements where everybody feels it's a win-win-win.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We're not the highest paid. Our starting salary is $37,700, and it has been that same starting salary for 10 years. I don't think people can say you've had the same starting salary for 10 years and in District 62 we have, and many people may not realize that.

We've had dialogue over the last couple years that it's hard to bring some people in when maybe a neighbor is paying $6,000 more and we just try to sell what we do have. We have great resources in your classroom. We have nice class sizes. We have a lot of professional development. We have a good mentor program.

Q: Is your approach to education different from other administrators in the Northwest suburbs?

A: I'll be honest, I would say no. I find my take on it is I'm a collaborator. I'm really into relationships and listening. I may come up with some good ideas, but I know you don't always have to re-create the wheel to make some good things happen. I'm really about sharing, so if there's some good things happening I have no problem letting you use it if it's going to help students. I would expect vice versa to have some individuals share with me.

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