District 59 superintendent not coming back after 2021

  • Art Fessler

    Art Fessler

 
 
Updated 7/9/2020 7:32 PM

Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 Superintendent Art Fessler, who faced criticism from some in the community for implementing a controversial curriculum, won't return after the upcoming school year, district officials announced Thursday.

Fessler will serve out the remainder of his contract, which expires in June 2021, as the school board searches for his replacement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

District officials made the announcement in a Thursday afternoon news release that touted Fessler's accomplishments since his hiring in 2013. Earlier in the day, Fessler sent letters to parents and staff.

While no one would say whose decision it was for Fessler to leave, his departure may have been foreshadowed more than a year ago, when the school board declined to give him a raise or contract extension following his annual evaluation.

Now in the final year of a five-year contract that doesn't guarantee automatic raises in the final three years, Fessler's base salary remains at $292,908, according to the most recent District 59 compensation report.

Board President Janice Krinsky, who was on the superintendent hiring committee and has been one of Fessler's biggest defenders, said Fessler exceeded her expectations in helping expand services to support the district's children and families.

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"He's really a very visionary person," Krinsky said. "If there were any hiccups, change is hard. He was a change agent. He was truly transformational and change is hard for people and it's caused quite a bit of controversy. We thought the things we were asking for for change would take him a couple years, and it took him months to put into place changes that improved the services and expectations."

Fessler came under fire from some parents and community members over his implementation of a curriculum that emphasizes students' learning experiences over more traditional textbook approaches. Many also complained about low test scores at some schools.

But Fessler has defended his overall vision while agreeing to beef up resources in certain areas where students were struggling, like math.

"I think we recognize the education of the past -- where teachers are doing all of the talking, kids are only using a single source resource textbook, taking tests and repeating information -- that's not going to prepare kids for their futures," Fessler said during a town hall at Elk Grove Village hall in October 2018.

Through a district spokesman, Fessler declined to comment on Thursday.

Besides his approach to teaching and learning, the district news release noted other parts of his tenure: construction of the Early Learning Center, implementation of full-day kindergarten, and expansion of Spanish and Polish dual language programs into more schools.

He also oversaw construction of the new district administration building in Elk Grove Village.

The school board on Monday is set to begin discussions about its search for a new superintendent. The board may enlist a search firm to help with the process, Krinsky said.

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