At public forum, some say new Dist. 214 boss should be more visible
A search firm hired to help find the next Northwest Suburban High School District 214 superintendent has interviewed principals, teachers, staff, students, parents, boosters, local mayors and village managers during more than two dozen focus groups over the course of the last two weeks.
On Monday, it was the general public's turn to give their opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of the district, and what characteristics they'd like to see in a new superintendent.
David Schuler, superintendent for the last 17 years, is leaving Feb. 24 to head the Alexandria, Virginia-based AASA, the national School Superintendents Association -- the organization that named him National Superintendent of the Year in 2018.
Only 10 people showed up to the hourlong forum on a cold Monday night at the Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights, following a virtual forum held on Zoom and attended by 10 people earlier in the morning.
But the in-person meeting represented a cross-section of the District 214 community: a school board member, a school board candidate, parents, students, teachers, and residents who no longer have kids in the schools.
Elizabeth Bauer, one of five candidates in the April 4 election and a Rolling Meadows High School parent, told two consultants from Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates that she wants to see more of a focus on helping at-risk students. Bauer said there should also be greater transparency and financial controls, in light of the mysterious departure of longtime Associate Superintendent for Finance and Operations Cathy Johnson last September.
Bauer also said she wants a schools leader who will listen to the community's concerns.
"I do not want a superintendent who is political and just says the things that people want to hear so they go away," Bauer said. "If it's something I don't like, ok, but at least you were honest."
Christopher McDavid, a senior at Elk Grove High School, said he would want to see the new superintendent more. Despite serving on the superintendent's committee for diversity, equity and inclusion, he didn't see Schuler at any of the group's five meetings last school year.
"I'm like, well, the club has the superintendent's name on it, but the superintendent's not there," McDavid said. "I understand the superintendent's a busy guy, but ..."
The last two focus groups are scheduled for today: an in-person community forum at 10 a.m. at Forest View, 2121 S. Goebbert Road and a virtual session at 7 p.m. via Zoom at links.d214.org/virtualforum2.
Consultants Connie Collins and Brian Harris -- former suburban superintendents themselves -- will compile the feedback they received and put together a leadership profile report that will be presented to the school board Feb. 9. The board hired the Schaumburg-based firm in December to gather input from stakeholders through focus groups and surveys, then help identify and narrow down a pool of candidates for the board's consideration.
Interviews are scheduled for March, and a new leader could be chosen by April.