Two principals in Riverside Elementary School District 96 received below average rankings in leadership from teachers at their schools, according to the results of a state survey conducted last year.
Pete Gatz, the principal at Central School, and Casimira Gorman, the principal at Blythe Park School, received below-average marks in leadership in the Five Essentials survey, which attempts to measure the school environment.
Both Gatz, now in his third year at Central, and Gorman, now in her second year at Blythe Park, replaced long-serving, popular principals.
“The Five Essentials is a snapshot, it’s one moment in time,” Gorman said. “It’s probably not super unusual, because there is always a period of adjustment when a new principal comes in.
Gorman replaced Bob Chleboun, a very popular principal at Blythe Park, who had been there 10 years.
“[Teachers] were very comfortable with the routines and the procedures and the things that he did,” Gorman said. “It kind of makes sense that it takes them a little bit of time to make that adjustment.”
Gorman says that she feels better about her relationships with teachers this year.
“You know we have a lot of long-term teachers here, and I feel really great about this year and about the relationships,” Gorman said. “It’s been a really, really wonderful year.”
Gatz, who replaced Janice Limperis in 2013, also said that it can be difficult for teachers to adjust to a new principal’s style.
“Administrators are different and everybody approaches things in a different way,” Gatz said.
Gatz also pointed out that last year was a very stressful year for teachers in District 96 because the district raced to implement new curricula based on the new Common Core state standards.
“I think that put a lot of stress on people and a lot on stress on staff last year, and hopefully we’ve kind of turned the corner a little bit and we’re working to progress things to a better place for them,” Gatz said. “Certainly it’s hard for teachers to do their best when they’re constantly faced with new initiatives that they have to undertake, so it’s my job to make sure I support them as much as possible and work with them to get them to where they want to be.”
Gatz said he is looking at the results and talking with his teachers to determine what he needs to do to become a better leader.
Central and Blythe Park School also received below average rankings in the collaborative teaching category.
“We would like to see the support for the leadership in those buildings to be stronger,” said District 96 Co-Interim Superintendent Griff Powell. “We need to work with our principals to see what specifically leads to these type of results and what can we do to change them.”
But Powell also noted that at a small school like Blythe Park, the results of a survey can be easily skewed.
“You have a couple of detractors and you get a lower score,” Powell said. “To me, that’s just one factor we look at out of many factors in terms of assessing the quality of our leaders.”
Todd Gierman, the principal at Ames School, received an average ranking in leadership, but Ames received an average score in collaborative teaching.
The two other principals in District 96 are new this year. Former Hauser principal Steve Juracka received the only above-average ranking in leadership among District 96 principals.
Juracka left District 96 last summer to join former District 96 Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis as an administrator in her new district in Mundelein. Curt Preble, the former principal at Hollywood School, who also left District 96 to work for Sharma-Lewis in her new district, received an average score in leadership.
All the District 96 schools received above-average scores in parental involvement.
Patrick Patt, the district’s other co-interim superintendent, echoed Powell in saying that the survey results are just one factor in evaluating principals.
“It’s just a piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the whole puzzle,” Patt said.
The principals at both S.E. Gross Middle School and Brook Park Elementary School in Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 received average scores in leadership. Brook Park ranked higher than average in collaborative teaching.
Neither Komarek School in North Riverside nor Congress Park or Lincoln School in Brookfield had enough responses to the survey for their results to be posted on the state school report website.
Likewise Lyons Township High School High School had too few responses — only 6.2 percent of teachers — for results to be posted. Riverside-Brookfield High School didn’t participate in the survey last year because it participated in another survey.