Evanston Township High School/District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon will retire at the end of the 2021-22 academic year following more than 15 years in the position.
The District 202 Board of Education will select a successor this fall, according to an ETHS news release. At Monday’s District 202 meeting, Witherspoon reflected on his time with ETHS, which he said spanned nearly half the total time he’s served as a superintendent.
“I know how many people count the days until their retirement, but for me this is bittersweet,” he said. “While I certainly hear all these things (like), ‘You’ve earned your retirement,’ — and I hope I have — to be perfectly honest, I leave completely loving this school and this job.”
Witherspoon said his main areas of focus have been equity and anti-racist work, and that he will continue to emphasize that in this next school year.
Board President Pat Savage-Williams praised Witherspoon for his commitment to these goals. Under Witherspoon’s leadership, academic performance increased for all students and advanced placement enrollment grew, especially for Black and brown students, Savage-Williams said.
“You’ve demonstrated for our community and for the country, how to identify and respond to institutional and systemic racism,” Savage-Williams said. “You’ve worked tirelessly behind the scenes to advance this cause.”
But Witherspoon said he doesn’t want to speak in the past tense. For now, he is focused most on the current school year.
This year looks much different than the last, with students fully back in-person on a new block schedule. Classes now meet three days a week rather than five, with eight blocks lasting 33 minutes each on Mondays and four blocks lasting 85 minutes each on all other days.
Student Representative Barbara Tomaradze said reactions to the block periods are split based on opinions of about 170 students.
Student feedback showed that teachers should provide breaks during blocks and plan multiple activities for the longer 85-minute periods, rather than lecture the entire block, she said.
With all the changes instituted this year, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Pete Bavis presented a multi-year evaluation model, which will take in feedback from certified and non-certified staff, students and parents.
Bavis said part of this model will examine the relationship between discipline, grades and attendance.
Associate Principal Keith Robinson explained the discipline and suspensions report for 2020-21. Last academic year, there were zero suspensions and 47 actions taken — a much smaller number compared to the 3811 actions taken in 2019-20, although Robinson said COVID-19 impacted this data.
Ten percent of actions taken to address student behavior in 2019-20 were suspensions, he added, with the majority of actions being restorative.
The board approved the final budget for the 2021-22 academic year. Chief Financial Officer Mary Rodino said the majority of revenue will come from property taxes and about 70 percent of expenditures will go to employee salaries and benefits.
The school board also unanimously approved the Park School budget for this academic year.
As students and staff return from remote learning, Board Member Patricia Maunsell said the board should be flexible in providing money to support their socioemotional needs.
“We need to respond immediately and make mid-course corrections as we need to,” she said. “If that means asking the board for money somewhere, then do it, because we don’t want kids to go without.”
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