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H-F High School stakeholders weigh in on principal search process

Consultants conducting the search for a new Homewood-Flossmoor High School principal met Tuesday with more than 100 students, staff and community members.

Four representatives of search firm BWP and Associates facilitated three public meetings to begin gathering views from H-F High School stakeholders that will help them find a candidate well suited for the position.

Eight community members attended the morning meeting, six were at an early evening meeting and eight attended the 7 p.m. meeting, where several participants expressed disappointment with the turnout.

Steve Griesbach, an associate with BWP, said the turnout was not unusual for this type of meeting. He noted that BWP representatives also talked to students and faculty during the day.


There will be another drop-in session Monday, Nov. 28, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the South Building TLC for those who were unable to attend Tuesday’s sessions.

Griesbach said another good way for community members to participate in the principal search is to fill out the survey that is available on the high school website. He suggested participants urge their friends and neighbors to complete the form, which takes about five minutes to do. He said between 500 and 1,000 responses would be most helpful.

“The survey is critical,” he said. “The richer the data, the clearer the profile.”

The BWP team’s goal is to create a profile of the kind of principal the H-F community wants and needs, and then use that to vet candidates for the job in an effort to find the best fit.

The discussions were informal, and participants were not asked to identify themselves by name. Griesbach and fellow associate Johnnie Thomas provided a three-part framework, asking participants to identify the district’s strengths, its challenges and the characteristics they would like to see in the new principal.

There was general agreement among community members at all three meetings that the district’s strengths include excellent faculty, technology, facilities  and the wide variety of both academic and extra-curricular programs.

The view was mixed about the school’s academic performance, with some participants lauding the challenging curriculum and others suggesting the school is slipping in some measures of academic proficiency.

Participants in all three sessions stressed the importance of the school’s diversity.

“It is what makes the school so incredibly special,” one man said, and a woman added, “It’s why we’re here.”

When it came to challenges, participants identified the difficulty of getting parents involved, of meeting the needs of a student body that is increasingly economically diverse and of improving the school’s relationship with the community.

The controversy surrounding the dismissal in June of former Principal Ryan Pitcock was identified as a major challenge for the district and the next principal.

Participants at the night meeting said there need to be clear lines of responsibility among top administrators, and the roles of each administrator need to be communicated to students, faculty and the community.

“We won’t get the best person if there isn’t clarity,” one woman said.

When it came to naming characteristics they want to see in a new principal, the controversy also figured in.

Transparency and diplomacy were mentioned, and some said the new principal should work to repair relations with parents and the community. 

“Don’t keep stuff hidden, good or bad,” one woman said. 

“This is a community that wants to know,” another woman added.

They said they want someone of integrity who is an advocate for the community, a visible member of the community and a good academic leader who can work well with faculty.

While they said they don’t want someone to imitate Pitcock, they want to see some of his characteristics in the new principal, including a willingness to show school spirit and to get to know the students.

“The next principal better be willing to wear the Victor Viking costume,” another person said.

“You have to like teenagers,” one man said.

Marilyn Thomas contributed information for this story.

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