GLEN ELLYN – For new Glen Ellyn School District 41 Superintendent Paul Gordon, it was the district’s vision for student learning that compelled him to travel more than 900 miles to take a position in the Chicago area.
“It’s about allowing kids the opportunities to solve problems, to be in situations that are unique and more challenging, rigorous,” said Gordon, 46.
He comes to D-41 from Adams 12 Five Star Schools in suburban Denver, where he has worked as a teacher, principal, chief academic officer and more during the last 23 years.
D-41 Board of Education President Sam Black said Gordon’s experience in various educational roles was one of the qualities he was looking for in the district’s next superintendent. In a unanimous board vote, Gordon was hired in February.
“I thought we really needed someone who was an outstanding communicator and could really reach out to all our stakeholders,” Black said.
And although he hasn’t been in his new position long, Gordon is already getting to know district staff, parents and community members.
“It’s so critical for me, my team, to engage our community, to have conversations, to listen,” Gordon said.
The 2012-13 school year was marked with some controversy for the district, as certain proposals and actions were met with opposition from parents and community members.
Gordon has spent time with parents to discuss their concerns about incoming changes at the elementary level – including teacher specialization and multi-age classrooms – that were originally brought forward by the D-41 Think Tank.
He plans to meet with them again in the coming weeks with a comprehensive outline detailing how the initiatives will be implemented and monitored and what they’ll look like.
“This is a very engaged community, a community that really takes their role as parents seriously, that they are the number one advocate for their kids, and I support that 100 percent,” he said.
However, Gordon said he’s confident in the changes and their implementation, acknowledging that ultimately, he’s accountable for the results.
Another issue that has proved contentious in the past and poses one of Gordon’s biggest challenges as superintendent is the district’s ongoing facility needs.
Many of the district’s facilities are aging, and roughly 500 elementary students are educated in portables. One of Lincoln Elementary’s portables, which houses two classes, will need to be replaced in the next two years.
In the spring, district staff proposed acquiring land owned by Wheaton College either by purchase or eminent domain, but after an outcry from the public and college community, D-41 board members tabled the proposal.
The district’s problems remain, however, and while Gordon said he’s not sure of a solution, he’s already met with board members to begin discussing the district’s options.
“It goes back to how we’re expecting our kids to solve problems,” Gordon said. “We need to be solving those same types of problems.”