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Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills District 181 board to interview 6 in superintendent search

<p>District 181 Superintendent Renee Schuster (right) talks with associate superintendent Mary Ticknor (left) while at Elm Elementary School in Burr Ridge. | Sun-Times Media file photo</p>

District 181 Superintendent Renee Schuster (right) talks with associate superintendent Mary Ticknor (left) while at Elm Elementary School in Burr Ridge. | Sun-Times Media file photo

The Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 Board will interview six candidates from an applicant pool of 44 in the process of finding a replacement for Superintendent Renee Schuster.

“We discussed eight, and six will be interviewed,” said Mark Friedman of BWP and Associates, the professional search firm assisting the board.

Friedman, who presented the board with the candidates during a closed meeting April 7, said the final six are all superintendents in other Illinois school districts.

“The board here is very conscious about leaving sufficient time for another district to find its own replacement if that’s where they choose someone from,” Friedman said. “The plan here is to have someone chosen here by the end of the month.”

Following initial interviews of the six final candidates, which are to wrap up April 14, anywhere from one to three will be asked back for a second interview.

“All of the six people being interviewed are good people who are qualified in their jobs,” Friedman said. “The key is the match. You want to find the right match for your district, and that’s something the board will be able to get a good sense of when they spend the time with each of the candidates.”

Friedman said it wasn’t surprising so many candidates had superintendent experience.

“I think the resources of this district are attractive to a lot of people,” he said. “This is a high-expectations district. The key is to communicate and treat everyone equally. You also have to stand up and not take things personally. This is a community that is very supportive of its schools, but there always are people who don’t agree with things.”

BWP and Associates compiled its list of potential candidates following the collection of input from about 385 staff members, PTO representatives, administrators, parents, board members and other community members. The input was gathered using interviews, focus groups and an online survey.

“This gave us a sense of what people are thinking and areas that may be of need to look at in finding a superintendent,” Friedman said. “We needed a little bit of a trend in the responses, and we have that.”

Friedman said feedback indicated desired characteristics sought include leadership, communication and decision-making skills, as well as someone with integrity who is child-centered.

“When you interview candidates, you want to make sure they have the ability to focus on children, not just adult to adult,” Friedman said. “The relationship piece is very important.”

The biggest areas of concern from respondents were curriculum, educational options/programs, instruction, facilities, community relations and technology.

Respondents saw District 181’s biggest strengths to be excellent teachers and staff, academic achievement, available resources, supportive parents, the reputation of the district, and a supportive community.

Schuster announced her resignation Feb. 10 and is stepping down June 30 to return to the St. Louis area, where she has family. Schuster began work July 1, 2010 as superintendent in District 181.

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