Bhavna Sharma-Lewis

The departing superintendent of Riverside Elementary School District 96, who resigned under pressure last month, effective June 30, was hired Tuesday as the new superintendent of Diamond Lake School District 76 in Mundelein.

District 76 board members voted unanimously to hire Bhavna Sharma-Lewis.

“It has been a privilege to serve as the superintendent of District 96,” Sharma-Lewis said in an email Thursday. “I was fortunate to have worked with a dynamic leadership team, dedicated professionals, supportive parents and amazing students. I am proud of our collective accomplishments and efforts.”

Sharma-Lewis will be paid $189,000 in her new job, a slight raise from the $183,320 she is earning this year at District 96. She will also receive four weeks of paid vacation as well as getting winter and spring breaks off, according to her compensation package, which is posted on the District 76 website.

District 76 is a three-school district, with two elementary schools and one middle school, comprising 1,085 students.

Sharma-Lewis was chosen from a field of nearly 40 candidates, according to a District 76 press release. The search was conducted by the firm BWP & Associates. The press release referred to Sharma-Lewis’s “collaborative leadership style” and noted her work to update District 96’s curriculum to align it with the new state Common Core learning standards. 

It also noted other accomplishments of Sharma-Lewis’s at District 96, such as developing new services for English Language Learners, enhancing the one-to-one laptop program and instituting weekly professional development for teachers.

The press release also noted Sharma-Lewis’s practice of occasionally returning to the classroom to teach a class, a practice that she called Undercover Boss. She intends to continue the practice in District 76.

“It’s really important for the superintendent to be connected and caring as the educational leader in a learning community,” the press release quoted Sharma-Lewis as saying. “This is a priority and part of my leadership style — I like to be visible, approachable, and collaborative with students, teachers, parents and the community.”

Sharma-Lewis on Wednesday sent an email to District 96 staff notifying them of her new job, saying she would be visiting classrooms during her “Undercover Boss Farewell Tour.”

“Thank you for your commitment, collaboration and support these past two years,” Sharma-Lewis wrote to faculty members. “I will miss you, and will always remember our journey together with great fondness.”

Sharma-Lewis’ two-year tenure at District 96 was marked by a lot of change and drama. In her first year, she essentially forced out two high ranking administrators, and the principal at L.J. Hauser Junior High School abruptly quit in the middle of the school year.

Two other principals left District 96 at the end of the year. One of those principals, Bob Chleboun, the popular former principal at Blythe Park School left because of a difficult relationship with Sharma-Lewis.

But many believe that Sharma-Lewis upgraded, and she certainly expanded, the administrative staff at District 96.

She had an often rocky relationship with the school board, which led to a mutual decision to part ways after the majority of the school board made clear that they wanted Sharma-Lewis out.

Sharma-Lewis had significant support among many parents, and this week three candidates who were sympathetic to Sharma-Lewis were apparently elected to the District 96 school board in a very close race.

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