Departures in U46 necessitate restructuring
By Emily McFarlan email@example.com July 31, 2012 7:08PM
Ushma Shah, Elgin School District U46’s chief of equity and social justice, answers questions during her presentation at Monday’s board of education meeting in Elgin. | Kevin D. Sherman~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 2, 2012 6:04AM
ELGIN — In the game of musical chairs caused by the sudden departure of Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Greg Walker, the odd position out in School District U46 may be its controversial chief of equity and social justice.
Walker’s exit earlier in July came on the heels of planned retirements of Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Carmen Rodriguez and Chief of Family and Community Engagement Karen Fox.
The district had hired Barbara Johnson in June to fill Rodriguez’s role. But with Walker’s decision to return to the College Board, Johnson will move instead into his role, according to U46 Chief of Staff Tony Sanders.
Johnson has worked as the secondary leadership specialist for the Baltimore city schools since 2009, U46 said. She is a former school principal and has taught middle school and high school English.
She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and master’s degrees in curriculum instruction and development from the University of Virginia and in administration and supervision from Johns Hopkins University, according to the district. She also has a doctorate in education administration and policy studies from George Washington University.
“Her background is well-suited for secondary education,” Sanders said.
Chief of Equity and Social Justice Ushma Shah now will become assistant superintendent of elementary education.
Shah came to U46 in July 2011 from Chicago Public Schools. She previously worked as a consultant, coaching instructional leadership teams at schools that are on academic probation.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in educational studies and anthropology from Knox College in Galesburg; her master’s degree in education, curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago; and her doctorate from Harvard University.
Sanders said last week he was unsure if the chief of equity and social justice position would be filled.
That position was created last summer to help close the achievement gaps between white and mostly Hispanic and black students, one of the goals of U46’s five-year accountability plan, Destination 2015.
And it immediately created controversy. Eight area residents expressed “outrage” over the role at a school board meeting, saying the six-figure salary could go instead to hire more teachers or reinstate programs the district has eliminated.
Walker had joined U46 in 2009, when Superintendent Jose Torres “recruited him away from” the College Board, according to Sanders.
The assistant superintendent of secondary education had worked since 2004 at the College Board, a nonprofit that offers programs to assist students in becoming college-ready. Previously, he had been principal of G.W. Fowler High School in Syracuse, N.Y.
Rodriguez, the assistant superintendent of elementary education, had “served off and on” in a number of roles in U46, including positions in its bilingual office and as principal of Ontarioville Elementary School in Hanover Park.
Fox also had served in a number of roles, beginning in 1986 as a volunteer when her children were in school, she said. She became a substitute teacher in 1994 and an administrator the next year.
Her responsibilities likely will be combined this school year with Sanders’ responsibilities as chief communications officer in a new position to be called director of school and community relations. U46 currently is in the process of hiring for that position, according to Sanders, who became chief of staff last year.