Field Narrowed to Two in Payton’s Search for New Principal

By Matthew Zehner ’20

With major changes to Payton’s administration coming soon, many Payton students are wondering about the process of choosing a new principal, who represents teachers and students, and ways in which they can get involved in the selection process.

After the announcement that Principal Tim Devine was leaving after nine years as principal, Payton’s Local School Council (LSC) has worked hard to begin the process of choosing a new principal. The applicant pool has been narrowed, and the final choice is between Ms. Jaya Miller-Little, assistant principal of Whitney Young High School, and Ms. Melissa Resh, assistant principal of Lake View High School. 

One of the first tasks was creating requirements and criteria which applicants would have to meet in order to be considered for the position. Social Studies teacher Ms. Ofori spoke on the overall process of selection, as well as her job as a teacher representative on the LSC. “My job and Ms. Russell’s job is to represent the teachers,” said Ofori. “As a teacher representative, I know that our priority is choosing what we believe is best for the school in terms of students and teachers, and to protect the people that are in the building.”

Payton took applicants through mid-March, and initial interviews took place during the last week of March. “Payton is such a unique school, we need a really unique leader,” Ofori said before the selection process began. “I hope that we have a lot of applicants on the fact that Payton is Payton and that it’s going to yield interest from various people.” Ofori wants to see as many applicants as possible to ensure the best candidate for the position is chosen. The position has many requirements, and applicants must first be up to the standards of CPS. “CPS has a principal selection pool that we have to work from. Even to get into that pool is pretty rigorous. I think that in itself does narrow the scope of candidates that we could be able to select from,” said Ofori.

Teachers also play a significant role in providing input for the applicants. “We are really striving for transparency with teachers; we let them know whenever there are LSC meetings and made additional meetings for feedback from teachers as well,” said Ofori. “Teacher feedback for the most part is sending out Google surveys. We’ve asked teachers for important interview questions they would like to ask the principal, and we are absolutely going to have a teacher forum as well as a student forum in which the teachers will meet the finalist candidates, and then be able to ask them questions and hear from them about their policies.” 

Student involvement is really important in the selection process, indicated senior Krishna Davis ‘20, the student representative on Payton’s LSC. “We want to make sure that students know what is going on with everything,” Davis said, “because students and teachers are going to be the main people affected by the new principal.”

There are many ways that students could get involved in the principal selection process. LSC held forums for students periodically, including a forum in April (via Zoom) where the two finalists for the position introduced themselves and students were able to give feedback. Students could also fill out the Payton principal selection survey, which gives insight into the official criteria being used, and also gives the space to provide input on the school’s greatest strengths and challenges, other criteria you might want to be met, and characteristics of a new principal. The feedback forms in response to the recent candidate forums are accepting student input through this Thursday.

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