Dr. Robert Machak, superintendent of the Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124, said the wheels are in motion and the process of finding a new principal at Central Middle School is taking place.
“We have had a few people already respond after we posted the job opening the day after the (June 14) meeting,” Machak said. “Fortunately, most of the work to prepare for the school year has been completed.”
Machak made his comments at the end of a more sedate District 124 meeting held June 20 at the administration center. The atmosphere was tense during the previous session when the board decided to rescind the contract of Dr. Matt Ericksen after a three-hour closed session. The board reconvened and made their announcement before a jam-packed crowd.
After initial positive reviews, Ericksen came under suspicion when anonymous emails were sent to board members that criticized his treatment of staff at his most recent position for the North School District 112 in Highland Park. Word spread quickly about the emails and parents and residents were able to find information about Ericksen on the internet.
Parents, teachers and residents who attended the June 13 meeting were mostly unanimous that Ericksen had to be removed and cheered the announcement.
Only a handful of people attended the June 20 meeting that was delayed 45 minutes for a closed session. Machak and other board members stated that the decision to rescind Ericksen’s contract is official and it is time to move on.
“While the business has been taken care of, it would have been an opportunity for (the new principal) to meet the children and the parents and get to know the school,” Machak said. “But we are going ahead and we will be interviewing people. We would like to have it done by July 30 to get ready for the school year. We will see.”
During the meeting, programs that have a positive impact on students in District 124 were discussed. Jan Stanton, office manager and community education coordinator for District 124, gave a report on community education during the past school year and programs that have been introduced. CPR and first aid instruction were provided for teachers and staff through Little Company of Mary Hospital, Stanton said. Health screenings were offered for seniors.
Other sessions had children and parents interacting by making crafts and in one instance, taking part in a cake decorating class, Stanton added.
The board has allocated funding for the Judy Mulcrone Scholarships for children to take part in various activities during the summer. The children are able to attend local summer camps where they can play sports and take part in other activities. District 124 helps provide funds of about $2,000 for four to six youths, which comes out to about $500 per child.
“This is the first year we have done this and it is an opportunity for kids to go away and play and meet with other kids,” said Kimberly Leonard, the board president. “I think this is just a great thing for kids.”
An additional co-taught teacher will be added at Central Middle School.
“The board has always felt it was better to keep classes smaller to better teach these kids,” Leonard said. “So, having another teacher would be beneficial.”
Technological advancements have been a great asset for students in District 124, according to Machak. He described some of improvements during a slide screening. He is pleased that a mobile tech lab is being added for Southwest School.
“Developing modules and developing a relationship with tech teachers is so important,” Machak said. “Our tech teachers are awesome. We would like to have a tech teacher for each building.”
Machak added that enhanced aps could provide more information to parents about programs at the schools. The information would be provided through the website, along with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“With this technology, parents will get a better idea of what each student’s day is like,” Machak said.
The board also discussed creating diversity sessions that include having dinner with residents of different backgrounds. Family fitness programs were also held last year and will continue during the 2018-19 school year. Town hall meetings led by state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) and state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) were held in conjunction with the district and the Evergreen Park Library.
Board members also said that they would like to hold more classes outdoors.
“Parents have talked to us and thought some classes could go outdoors to teach kids about plants and nature,” Machak said. “I like the idea of taking kids out of the classroom and going outside.”