The superintendent of Riverside Elementary School District 96 is one of two finalists for a superintendent position in Skokie.
According to the Skokie School District 69 website, Bhavna Sharma-Lewis had a second interview with the entire school board of Skokie School District 69 on March 5.
Earlier that day before her interview Sharma-Lewis had informal meetings with District 69 administration, visited the district’s three schools and met people in an informal meet-and-greet session at the Skokie School District 69 Administrative Center, the district website stated.
District 69 serves parts of Skokie and Morton Grove. Its approximately 1,700 students attend two elementary schools and a junior high school.
The other finalist for the Skokie job is Margaret Clauson, an assistant superintendent in Wilmette School District 39. The District 69 Board of Education is planning to introduce its choice for the district’s new superintendent next week at its March 17 school board meeting. District 96 has a regularly scheduled board meeting the same night.
“The last details are being finalized this week,” said Terri Lefler, the president of the District 69 Board of Education in an email. “We expect that we will have a formal announcement by early next week. We also hope to introduce the new superintendent at our regularly scheduled meeting next week on Tuesday, 3/17/15.”
Lefler did not respond when asked if Sharma-Lewis was their first choice or if District 69 was negotiating with Sharma-Lewis.
As of Thursday morning, Sharma-Lewis has not responded to a request for comment.
District 96 school board President Mary Rose Mangia declined to comment when asked how she felt about Sharma-Lewis interviewing for another job.
“I have no comment whatsoever,” Mangia said Thursday morning.
Sharma-Lewis grew up in Skokie. She became a principal for the first time at Middleton School, the school she attended as a child, in a different Skokie school district.
Sharma-Lewis has been at the helm in District 96 since July 1, 2013. She is in the second year of a three-year contract.
Her tenure at District 96 has been marked by profound change and an often rocky relationship with the school board.
In her first few months on the job, Sharma-Lewis essentially forced out former special education Director Mary Polk. Technology Director Vern Bettis left mid-year after being isolated and ignored after other administrators pointed out serious problems with the district’s technology infrastructure.
L.J. Hauser Junior High School Principal Leslie Berman abruptly left her job in January of 2014 and popular Blythe Park Principal Bob Chleboun resigned effective at the end of the 2013-14 school year.
Neither principal had a good relationship with Sharma-Lewis, who has hired every principal currently working in District 96.
Sharma-Lewis ramped up professional development for the district’s teachers and worked to align the district’s curriculum with the new Common Core state standards, a task that was barely begun under the administration of former Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson.
In August, two of Sharma-Lewis’s strongest supporters on the school board, Lisa Gaynor and David Kodama, abruptly quit the school board when it appeared that Sharma-Lewis might be fired or forced out of her job.
That left Sharma-Lewis with only one consistent supporter on the school board, Art Perry. Sharma-Lewis has had a rocky relationship with other board members, including Mangia and board Vice President Rachel Marrello.
In past six months or so, the superintendent’s relationship with the board has improved. Mangia described her relationship with Sharma-Lewis “good and productive.”
“I have been meeting with her weekly since my temporary work assignment ended in September 2014,” Mangia said. “I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe she enjoys a positive relationship with the vast majority of the board of education.”
A furor broke out after Gaynor and Kodama resigned from the school board. A crowd of vocal parents supporting Gaynor, Kodama and Sharma-Lewis, spoke at a packed school board meeting after the resignations and harshly criticized the school board. After the meeting Sharma-Lewis remained on the job, but was subject to periodic reviews by the school board.
Things seemed to calm down somewhat after Gaynor and Kodama left the board and Sharma-Lewis remained in charge, but throughout the fall the board met repeatedly in closed session, often without Sharma-Lewis present.
Since Christmas talk of replacing Sharma-Lewis apparently has been put on the back burner, but those close to the situation knew that Sharma-Lewis was interviewing for other jobs.
This school year, Sharma-Lewis, has kept a very low profile. She has not spoken much at board meetings and typically has other administrators handle presentations to the board.