Updated: August 12, 2013 4:05PM
The Rich Township High School District 227 Board has promoted from within and hired from Chicago Public Schools to fill two vacant principal positions for next year.
Vanessa Woods began as principal at Rich Central High School on July 1. Woods was the principal at Betty Shabazz International Charter School in Chicago, but most of her educational experience was in the Evanston school district, District 227 board president Cheryl Coleman said.
Coleman said Rich Central students were part of a round-robin interview process involving 13 candidates in two days. She said the students “said they needed somebody firm, somebody strong” in the post.
Woods, who is no relation to school board member Delores Woods, will be Rich Central’s fourth principal in five years.
“We were looking for someone who could bring stability and improve the school,” interim Supt. Doris Langon said. “She has had ‘turnaround school’ experience and has a depth and breadth of curriculum instruction and assessment, getting down to the primary ingredients of improving student achievement.”
Jennifer Bednarczyk is the new principal at Rich South High School, where she has been an assistant principal under Cynthia Hudson, who was recently promoted to assistant superintendent of operations.
“She’s in a unique position to further grow that school based on mentorship she received from Ms. Hudson,” Langon said of Bednarczyk.
The principals were hired through an interview process that resembled speed dating, Coleman said. The interviewers were students, current and future parents, community members and faculty and staff.
“We had four rooms, and each room had anywhere from four to six people in it,” Coleman said. “... After fifteen minutes, the bell would ring, and the person would walk out and go to the next room.”
She said three finalists were brought back a second day for more formal, intense interviews.
“It was exciting to see it and hear the student comments,” Coleman said of the process. “The students were real strong on who they needed.”
She said the school board is looking for something different from each school in the coming school year.
Bednarczyk is charged with continuing the progress made by Hudson at Rich South, where test scores rose by the highest percentage among the district’s three schools. Woods is expected to establish more structure and accountability at Rich Central, Coleman said.
She said the board also expects Rich East to build its programs under Principal Mark Kramer.
Coleman said she’s also looking to principals to help increase enrollment, which has been declining at all three schools.