Wildwood School LSC set to select new principal
by BRIAN NADIG
The two finalists for the vacant principal’s position at Wildwood School answered questions for about 75 minutes at a Sept. 12 candidate forum hosted by the Wildwood School Local School Council.
One of the finalists is Jamieson School assistant principal Susan Paik, who has been a math teacher and has worked as a network administrator assisting schools with their budgets. Her family, including two grade school age children, lives in Edgebrook.
The other finalist is former Hawthorne Scholastic Academy interim principal Marisol Negron, who currently is designated as a citywide principal, serving as a REACH program coach and evaluator at Oscar Meyer and Nettelhorst elementary schools and South Shore High School. REACH stands for Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago’s Students. Her family includes two Chicago high school graduates.
The council hopes to award a principal’s contract to one of the candidates at its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17. The council began its search after Mary Beth Cunat resigned as principal in June, and later took a principal’s job in Rockford.
Prior to the forum, the candidates toured the school and met members of the faculty and some of the students.
Based on talks with the teachers, both Negron and Paik said that they would work on implementing a discipline structure at Wildwood, making sure the students are aware of expectations.
"I classify myself as a collaborative leader," Negron said. "Trust is at the heart of being a successful school leader." She added that trust can only be gained by working with the faculty and community and that every decision should be made through "the lens of the kids first."
"I need everyone in this building," Negron said. "I can’t do it alone."
Paik said that she would rely on feedback from the faculty and parents and views the role of an assistant principal as a "thought partner" whom she could rely on for constant input about school issues.
"It’s important to build that trust and that relationship (with the faculty)," Paik said.
Paik added that as the top administrator of a school, it is sometimes best to just "get out of the way" of the teachers and let them focus on leading their classrooms.
In her first days as principal, Paik said that she would try to meet as many students as possible and try to remember all of their names. "I have to do it because I have to connect with them," she said.
At Jamieson, Paik said that she obtained credentials to teach comprehensive health and sex education. She said that the health instructors are all male and that she felt there should be a resource in which female students may feel more comfortable discussing these issues with.
Negron said that the decision to leave the classroom after 18 years as a teacher to become an administrator was not easy but that she felt that as an administrator could "impact thousands of kids instead of hundreds."
Both candidates stressed the need for staff development and to continuously explore ways to meet the ever-changing and diverse needs of today’s students.
"Guess what? Some of their jobs haven’t been created yet," Negron said, adding that children "do not come with instructions."
"It’s not just about academics. It’s the whole child," Paik said, adding that she would like to see more extracurricular activities at Wildwood.
Asked about their pet peeves, Negron said that it is the use of cellphones in the classrooms, while Paik said that it is staff member who shouts at a student.
Paik said that when a student makes a mistake, it should be used as a teaching moment, and Negron said that the school should have a clear policy on cellphone use.
In response to a question from a parent, each candidate said that any decision to change the school’s magnet status would be made collectively as a school community. While Wildwood has a magnet-level curriculum, it is a neighborhood school in which those students living within its attendance boundaries are guaranteed enrollment.
Several of the questions were about the candidates’ vision for Wildwood and overall educational philosophies. Both candidates stressed the importance of building trust with the school community.
The LSC asks that questions or comments about the candidates be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.