Former Wildwood principal starts job at school in Rockford
by BRIAN NADIG
Dr. Mary Beth Cunat, who abruptly retired last month as principal of Wildwood School, has been named principal of Spectrum Progressive School of Rockford.
Spectrum officials had their first conversation with Cunat in March and began contract negotiations in May, according to an announcement on the school’s Web site. Spectrum is a private school that uses a variety of current resources instead of traditional textbooks to teach students. Cunat started at Spectrum on July 1, according to the announcement.
"Through developing teacher leadership and bringing numerous grant-funded educational innovations to (Wildwood), Dr. Cunat led her team in making Wildwood an exemplary IB (International Baccalaureate) school known for its personalized approaches and visited by educators from across the country and world," Spectrum’s announcement stated.
"What appealed to Dr. Cunat about the move to Spectrum was working in a school that had been established in progressive education for 50 years. She is excited about bringing an innovative mindset to Spectrum. One of her early priorities is leading the staff in taking Spectrum’s open-ended curricular and instructional approaches to the next level by articulating and making visible more state-of-the-art and personalized assessment systems and strategies," the announcement said.
Last month Cunat released a statement on her own behalf explaining her reasons for departing Wildwood. Her statement included the following:
"As deeply committed as Dr. Cunat was to the Wildwood students and staff, she became aware early in the school year that a small but vocal group of parents were hoping for a new principal. Dr. Cunat had cultivated teacher ownership of the work and knew that IB approaches which value student inquiry, student choice and voice, academic rigor, and civic action would continue without her.
"Thus, she began to explore other options for herself in late 2017. Although she had accepted a four-year contract from the Wildwood LSC hoping to turn things around, a few controversial incidents occurred over the course of the winter and spring, which, though resolved well, confirmed in Dr. Cunat’s mind that it was time to move on at the end of the school year.
"When parent outcry over a career day speaker resulted in hateful social media and anonymous threats to her and her family, she decided to expedite her retirement from Chicago Public Schools, which she did on June 6, 2018."
The career day speaker was asked to speak to students about his poetry and music related to social justice and had posted anti-police rhetoric on his Facebook page. He has said that police killed one of his friends. The speaker has since removed the anti-police statements.
Cunat served as Wildwood’s principal for 8 years.