This will be a week of transition for Riverside Elementary School District 96. On Friday, Martha Ryan-Toye takes over as superintendent. The district has been led for past year by a pair of co-interim superintendents, Patrick Patt and Griff Powell.

Ryan-Toye has worked for the past 22 years at River Forest Elementary School District 90, first as a special education director and for last six years as the director of student services.

District 96 school board President Jeff Miller said that Patt and Powell did a great job of leading the district in the past year.

“If you look at where we were at last year and where we’re at now, it’s really night and day,” Miller said at last week’s school board meeting.

In a telephone interview with the Landmark, Miller elaborated on his thoughts about the job Patt and Powell did and the future under Ryan-Toye’s leadership.

“The community was very lucky to find those guys,” Miller said. “They’re highly experienced, highly competent administrators and that’s exactly what we needed. 

“We’re also looking forward to the future with Ms. Ryan-Toye, because she’s going to be the person responsible for initiating many of the initiatives that we have in mind.”

Patt and Powell brought stability to the district after a rocky few years, but say that they enjoyed their time in District 96 and that they believe the district is well positioned for the future. 

“Clearly I think that the drama that was a pretty high level before we came was reduced significantly, and the board focused on things like their strategic plan and hiring a superintendent,” Powell said.

At last week’s school board meeting, Patt advised the school board to trust its administrators and not to micromanage a team he described as very strong. 

“They have good people in practically every position imaginable,” Patt said in an interview with the Landmark.

At the June 22 school board meeting, Patt singled out Merryl Brownlow, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

“I’ve been blown away by Merryl all year,” Patt told the school board. “Merryl is a walking curricula dictionary. There is no limit to what this district can do.” 

In his interview with the Landmark, Patt also praised Bill Howes, the president of the District 96 teachers’ union.

 “Probably one of the best people I’ve very worked with in a position like that,” Patt said.

Both Patt and Powell say that they expect Ryan-Toye to be a great fit at District 96. 

“At the end of the day, I think they found the perfect person,” Powell said. “I’m very high on Martha Ryan-Toye. I think she’ll be a very successful superintendent and be there for years.”

Even though he’s leaving the central office, Patt will remain a presence in district. On June 22, the school board approved a consulting agreement with Patt to aid in the transition and provide Ryan-Toye with limited mentoring. 

Patt will be available to advise and consult with Ryan Toye, and will be paid $75 an hour. The consultant fees are not to exceed $3,000 without Board of Education Approval. A similar arrangement with Powell was withdrawn, because Powell has accepted another part-time interim superintendent position in Glenview District 34 for the coming year.

“The intention was to provide a transition team for Martha,” Miller said. “It’s really going to up to Ms. Ryan-Toye how much mentoring she feel she needs.” 

Patt said that he and Powell have been in extensive contact with Ryan-Toye since her hiring was announced in February, and he is not sure how much his services will be needed. Ryan-Toye has attended many school board meetings since she was hired and has met extensively with the school board.

Just last week Patt, Powell, and Toye had a conference call. 

“She’s really very much off and running at this point,” Patt said. She’s been very involved and we’ve got her up to date on just about everything happening.”

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