Jennifer Neubauer of Lake Forest shares a letter that she sent to Lake Forest High School District 115 on May 27, 2015 regarding principal search.
To the LFHS Board of Education members: Reese Marcusson ([email protected]), John Powers ([email protected]), Ted Moorman ([email protected]), Dave Schreiber ([email protected]), Lise Eliot ([email protected]), Diana Kreiling ([email protected]) and David Lane ([email protected])
Dear Board Members:
As you know, the LFHS community remains in considerable uproar over Superintendent Simeck’s proposed principal hiring. There are over 37,000 hits and climbing to the Daily North Shore’s articles on the matter. The Tribune has filed two stories online. The turmoil continues.
In this highly charged atmosphere, I have no doubt you will retain the calm and deliberative manner you displayed at the May 26, 2015 meeting. And again, on behalf of myself and the people for whom I speak, we thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration of the very serious matters before you. I hope the following is helpful.
First, we know Chala Holland’s internet presence was scrubbed either on her own initiative or possibly at the behest of Simeck, her chief advocate. Either way, she was complicit in hiding from this Board and the community material and relevant facts about her background; facts which she knew, if known, would torpedo her candidacy. Only a leak from a site visitor, a web-archiving service and the grave concern of some women in our community alerted LFHS stakeholders and created the groundswell of outrage which prevented her from profiting by this deception and obtaining a position at LFHS on May 27th. For this reason alone, she should be rejected for employment at LFHS.
Second, see the resumes of her comparable peers:
New Trier – Linda Yonke
6 years principal York High, Ed. D. Educational Organization and Leadership, 25 years’ experience
Deerfield – Christopher Dignam
3 years principal Lane Tech College Prep + 5 years assistant principal, 2 years science coach for Chicago School District, 16 years’ experience
Highland Park – Tom Koulentes
9 years assistant principal at that school, 20 years’ experience all at that school, PhD Education, Nobel Prize for Distinguished Teaching, Microsoft Award for Most Innnovative Teaching
Stevenson – Troy Gobble (*snap hire due to firing of previous principal)
2 years’ assistant principal; department chair for 8 years previously; 20 years’ experience
Glenbrook South—Brian Wegley
12 years Physics and Math teacher, 5 years administrative posts, 10 years principal at GBS,
27 years’ experience, PhD Administration and Supervision, numerous awards including Fermilab’s Science Teacher of the Year in 1998
Glenbrook North—Paul Pryman
Retiring 2015, 10 years principal at GBN, PhD and published author
Mt. Prospect – Michelle Dowling – assistant principal for 6 years at that school, 29 years’ experience
(All “years’ experience” include administrative and teaching (not including student teaching) at time of hiring.)
Compared with comparable high schools in our area, Holland’s resume pales in comparison: Her teaching career at Evanston (10 years) and three year stint as Assistant Principal for Instruction at Oak Park-River Forest (3 years) is a mere 13 years. Her nearest competition in terms of years served, (Christopher Dignam at Deerfield High School, with 16 years’ total educational experience), had been a principal for three years at Lane Tech and assistant principal for 5 at the same school. (And under his leadership, Lane Tech acquired its highest ACT score in 105 years, no doubt due to improvements in teaching and curriculum and not the implementation of critical race theory practices).
This data shows Ms. Holland has not met, let alone exceeded, even the lowest benchmark to even be considered for the LFHS principal job. Why would Simeck propose her as his top candidate?
I have not extensively researched these other principals’ undergraduate, graduate or PhD careers, but would be surprised to learn they were hired because of their expertise in “Urban Educational Leadership, Policy Studies in Urban Education” which comprised Ms. Holland’s doctoral coursework. For example, Mr. Dignam’s science background led him to eliminate antiquated programs such as drafting at Lane Tech where he found ways to introduce relevant 21st century tech into the curriculum, including a course in sound engineering. Dr. Wegley of Glenbrook South, with an MA in Educational Leadership and PhD from Loyola in Administration and Supervision believes in his school’s “central mission of preparing students to lead productive and ethical lives (emphasis supplied)”. “We are not mere mortals, we are Titans” he trumpets on his school bio page. Don’t these sentiments more closely resonate with LFHS stakeholders own values than Ms. Holland’s comments on “the reality of white privilege and internalized racism”?
Did Superintendent Simeck not know he was putting forth a candidate with the thinnest resume on the North Shore? If he did not know, why? Was he simply charmed by a personable young woman and did he shut his eyes to everything else? Does he have a personal agenda not consonant with the expectations of the LFHS community for quality education which led him to make this choice? Moreover, Simeck has gone to great lengths to reassure the community that AP and Honors courses would remain at LFHS. I received the following email this past week. It is representative of many I have received from members of the community who suggest Simeck has no intention of retaining meaningful academic tracking in either LFHS or DPM:
“To whom it may concern,
I am not surprised at all by Mr. Simeck’s nominee for principal at LFHS. For the past three years I have watched him repeatedly share his agenda with parents in District 67. His platform has been that he wants all classrooms equalized, where the brightest students teach the lowest level learners. He has given examples time and time again how he has seen this in action at previous schools where he has worked. Essentially he wants the higher performing students to teach their peers. This is not the job of our children, this is the job of our teachers.
In the past three years Mr. Simeck has dismantled a successful foreign language program (regardless of where you stood on the issue, the program was successful and had full enrollment each year after its implementation), has extremely high staff turnover (Cherokee will once again have a new principal, for the 5th time in 6 years, Lauren Fagel is leaving the district after 2 short years, others have left in droves), and he has tightened the requirements for entrance into the Explore program at the elementary school level, trying to introduce “flexing” into classrooms for gifted and non-gifted students alike. He truly does not want to have differentiation among students. The problem this poses is that the district does not have enough qualified staff/teachers to instruct children of these varying learning levels.
I know this is not directly related to the principal issue at LFHS, but in a way it is. Simeck has been forcing his equalization desires through the District 67 schools since the day he arrived and now he is bringing it to the high school. I truly believe the person that needs to be recalled is not the candidate for principal, but the superintendent himself.
A concerned citizen”
Bluntly put: Given his track record, how can we ever trust anything Simeck says about his intentions toward academic tracking, or anything else for that matter?
Members of the Board, yours is an arduous yet noble task. Yet you were honored by the citizens of this District to take it up. Based on the facts as we know them, any relationship of trust between this community and Mr. Simeck has been irreparably severed. It is clear, based on the facts, that he has put forth a candidate whom he knew or should have known was hiding material and relevant facts from this Board and this community. It is clear, based on the facts, that he has put forth as his “top pick” from a field of 25 one of the least qualified candidates in comparable schools, with an academic background of little relevance or import for quality education at LFHS. He is either an inept bungler who can’t accomplish roughly 5 hours of internet research, or he has an agenda the vast majority of his constituents DO NOT SHARE which he nevertheless wants to foist upon us.
Either way, his actions are fatal to his continued service at LFHS. We have been betrayed. Mr. Simeck’s contract must not be renewed. The search for an interim Superintendent and interim Principal, both possibly plucked from our own LFHS ranks, must begin immediately and a painstakingly thorough, professional search ensue for the Superintendent and Principal LFHS deserves.
“Abeunt Studia in Mores” is carved into the granite above the main door at LFHS and has withstood the ravages of weather there for 80 years. The motto means: “They leave, striving after morality.” Our community has been damaged and demoralized by these recent events (and some not so recent). How can our children learn anything about integrity if it is not first modeled for them by the adults?
Thank you very much for your time and dedication to LFHS and the values we hold.
Very truly yours,
Jennifer C. Neubauer
LFHS Class of 1976