Leaving EP Bethless

  • Written by Bob Rakow

pge-1-3-col-hartBeth Hart bursts out of the Evergreen Park High School banner before Friday’s homecoming game. The school’s superintendent will retire in June. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Longtime super Hart to retire in June

Beth Hart does not know what it’s like to sleep in.

“I’ve just always been an early riser. I get up early,” Hart said Tuesday morning, five hours after rolling out of bed at 4:30 a.m.
The superintendent of Evergreen Park High School District 231, Hart recalls sitting alone in her college cafeteria early on Saturday mornings while classmates slept in.
Hart checks her email in the early morning hours—her first task in a typical day filled with myriad responsibilities.
“It’s a 24/7 job,” she said of overseeing the school at 99th Street and Kedzie Avenue.
But come June, Hart will call it career after 35 years in education as both a teacher and administrator.
“It just felt right,” said Hart, 63.
But retirement doesn’t mean Hart will start sleeping until noon.
She plans to teach or use her Spanish-speaking abilities in some capacity. In fact she’s often called on at the high school when Spanish-speaking parents stop to voice a concern.
“I hope that I’ll find something to do,” said Hart, who also plans to spend more time with her young grandchildren, who live in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.
Hart, who was honored at halftime of last Friday’s homecoming game, spent her entire career in the Southland after growing up in St. Thomas More parish in Chicago’s south side.
She taught Spanish at Quigley South, Brother Rice, Marist and Bremen high schools over a 16-year-period before becoming an assistant principal at Bremen.
Her path as an administrator ultimately led her to Evergreen Park High School in 2001, where she’s served as both principal and superintendent—a post she was named to in 2008.
“I feel like it went by unbelievably fast,” said Hart, who lives in Chicago’s Morgan Park community.
Hart described Evergreen Park an “unbelievable community” that is home to an “an all-American high school.”
She added that the school’s 850 students represent all aspect of the teen years. The school is home to a wide spectrum of students, including those who have gotten perfect ACT scores to others who excelled in sports or drama.
Hart oversaw renovations to the football field, science labs and theatre during her tenure at the school, but she’s most proud of her ongoing interaction with students.
“The thing I hope I’m known for is being student-centered,” Hart said. “I would describe myself as a democratic leader.”
Leading a small school and having her office in the same building makes that task a little easier, but Hart said that empowering students is a lesson she learned from her days at Queen of Peace High School and throughout her college days.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at Mundelein College and did post-graduate work at the University of Illinois and Loyola University. All along she learned that giving students responsibility and a voice was important.
That message was not lost on the School District 231, which has four members who attended the high school. In fact, board president Christopher Trzeciak was a student at the school when Hart was principal.
“Now he’s my boss,” she said.
Hart’s secretary, Sheri Sochacki, said Hart has always promoted teamwork and encouraged staff and faculty to make suggestions.
“I think she has the natural ability to bring people together,” Sochacki said. “She always promotes team effort. I’m definitely going to miss working for Beth.”
Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton lauded Hart for her accomplishments at the school.
“Beth has a done a wonderful job,” Sexton said. “She’s been very good to this community. She’s very involved. The school has made a lot of improvements since she’s been there.”
Principal Bill Sanderson calls Hart a mentor.
“She allows you to do your job,” Sanderson said. “She allowed me to put my own personality on the position. I’ll be forever indebted to her.”
Sanderson credited Hart for connecting with students. As principal, she would go through the yearbook to learn students’ names. She also started the senior exit interview as means of getting students’ honest assessment of the school
The district has already taking steps to find Hart’s replacement having hired a search firm that surveyed the community members, parents, faculty and staff before bringing finalists to the school board for consideration.