The day after his third daughter was born, Ryan Evans had his final interview for the principal’s job at S. E. Gross Middle School. Despite a lack of sleep, Evans did well enough that on April 3 the Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 Board of Education voted unanimously to hire the 32-year-old Evans as the new principal, effective July 1.
Evans is a known commodity to the board. He has spent his entire career at Gross School, and currently serves as assistant principal. Evans will replace Kevin Nicholson, who is resigning because he wants to work closer to his northwest suburban home. Evans will be paid $85,000 next year.
Evans seems made to be the principal at Gross. He grew up near the school and still lives a stone’s throw away, on Lincoln Avenue.
“I live across the street from the house I grew up in,” Evans said, noting that you can see his house from the front of the school. “I actually did my student teaching here; this has been my district. I really liked the environment, the people.”
However, Evans, who also serves as Brookfield village trustee, did not attend Gross as a student. He went to St. Louise de Marillac for grade school and Nazareth Academy for high school. He graduated from Monmouth College and has a master’s degree in educational leadership from Concordia.
He taught seventh-grade social studies at Gross for five years and taught science and student support classes before being named assistant principal two years ago.
His roots in and commitment to Brookfield will help him as principal, Evans said.
“I’m here,” Evans said. “I’m part of the community. There’s a home-grown piece to me. I have three daughters. My daughters will go through this district.”
Evans said he hopes to stay at Gross a long time and is anxious to continue work of programs he has helped plan.
“I started initiatives that I would like to very much see through as the principal. And because of that, I’d like there to be some consistency of leadership in the district,” Evans said. “The district has been one where administrators come and go. My hope, being very invested in the community, is that I can work in a very positive way here.”
Evans was chosen from a field of 45 candidates. Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski interviewed 15 candidates and narrowed the field to five. Those five then interviewed with a team of administrators, which winnowed the field to two finalists. Just before the final interview with a group of parents, the other finalist was hired for another position and removed himself from consideration.
Kuzniewski said that recommending Evans to the board was an easy decision. Evans has played a large role in preparing Gross for the new Common Core curriculum and has worked on plans to give struggling students more support.
“Ryan has been a large part of developing those,” Kuzniewski said. “He has a strong relationship with the staff that already exists.
Evans said that he is not especially concerned about taking over Gross in the year that a new statewide test is scheduled to be administered, a test which will be more rigorous than the current Illinois Scholastic Achievement Test (ISAT).
“There’s a lot more to a student than a single indicator and there’s a lot more to a school than a single indicator as a test,” Evans said.
Lynn Waterloo, the president of the District 95 Board of Education, thinks that Evans is the right person for the job.
“He’s worked wonderfully as the assistant principal,” Evans said. “He’s familiar with the staff. He’s moved well into an administrative position. He has a good relationship with the superintendent. We’re looking forward to good things from him.”