Nora Geraghty (left) and Pam Shaw. Geraghty was hired to be the Associate Director for Special Education and Student Services starting July 1. She is expected to replace Pam Shaw as Director on July 1, 2023. (Bob Skolnik/Contributor)

Riverside Elementary School District 96 is hiring a new administrator slated to become its head of special education after Pam Shaw, director of student services and special education, retires after the end of the next school year.

At their March 16 meeting, the District 96 school board voted 6-0 to hire Nora Geraghty to the new, temporary position of associate director of student services starting on July 1. 

Next school year, Geraghty will work closely with Shaw and learn the nuances of the District 96 and the director of special education position. If her work performance is satisfactory, Geraghty will then replace Shaw on July 1, 2023.

“Our goal isn’t to have a director and an associate director, it is really to have a powerful and seamless transition and the board agreed that perhaps the complexity of the special education and student services job is very unique,” said District 96 Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye.

Board member Joel Marhoul praised the idea of having someone work with Shaw for a year before succeeding her.

“This is unique in the public sphere where we actually have overlap between people and positions to allow for learning and getting familiar with the district,” Marhoul said.

Right now, Geraghty serves as an assistant director of student services in Northbrook District 28, where she oversees special education services at two elementary schools.

She was chosen for the District 96 job from a field of 25 applicants and will be paid $133,000 next year. Geraghty is guaranteed a raise of no less than 3 percent in the 2023-24 school year if she succeeds Shaw.

Geraghty went through three interviews, including an initial screening interview via Zoom with Shaw and Ryan-Toye, then two in-person interviews with large committees of teachers and administrators.

“She was simply the most qualified candidate,” said Ryan-Toye who praised Geraghty’s collaborative attitude and caring nature. “We really put Nora through the paces with a very rigorous interview process.”

Geraghty, 43, grew up in Evanston. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in psychology in 2001 and earned a degree in school psychology in 2007 from Michigan State. She earned her administrative certificate by getting a master’s degree in educational leadership from Concordia University Chicago in 2019.

Like Ryan-Toye, Geraghty has never been a classroom teacher. She worked six years as psychologist and four years as a program supervisor for a special education cooperative in the northern suburbs before moving to District 28 in 2017. 

Geraghty said she only knew District 96 by reputation when she applied for the position but liked what she saw of the district during the interview process. 

“When I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ryan-Toye and Pam Shaw and the two large interview teams, I just felt an immediate strong sense of collegiality and collaboration,” Geraghty said.

Geraghty said that she doesn’t know exactly what her responsibilities will be next year, but is looking forward to time spent being mentored by Shaw.

“It is such a unique commitment that the board is making to ensure that there’s just a smooth transition and adequate opportunity for me to be familiar with everything coming into this role,” she said.