Candidate forum rundown

By Megha Khemka, Isabelle Ravanas, and Bridget Galibois

During the Principal Candidate Forums held on Apr. 27, Payton’s principal candidates answered questions submitted by members of the community regarding how they would approach the position. Here are some of their responses.

CandidateDr. Fareeda Shabazz-AndersonMr. Adam StuckyMr. Daniel Kuzma
Current position– Interim Principal at Walter Payton; formerly founding principal at Crane Medical Prep– Assistant Principal at Lincoln Park High School – Assistant Principal at Taft High School 
Years of teaching experience– Teach For America;
years unknown
– 9 years– 12 years 
Self-identified strengths and values– Keeps children first 
– Values hard work
– Prioritizes relationships and trust
-Values organization, responsiveness, curiosity
– Calm, cool, and collected
-Values humility and equity
Self-identified weaknesses– Works too hard and long; always thinking about the work– Toxic masculinity; difficulty being open about emotions– Previously unable to engage with every teacher in professional support
First-year priorities for Payton– Strengthen and develop Tier 1 and holistic support system
-Expand course catalog, including dual credit options 
-Hire Diverse Learner expert
– Get the right administrative team with community engagement 
-Create a vision with benchmarks
-Engage stakeholders in matters affecting the Payton community
– Get to know everyone
-Can’t foster belonging if you don’t know everyone
Unique contributions to the Payton community– Establishing partnerships outside of Payton
-Having contacts and experience as a principal
-Believes in setting high expectations for all students
– LGBTQ+, affable, and naturally curious
-Centering on what is possible and what is next
-Has created effective 30-60-100 day benchmarks and would do so again
– Emphasizing family representation and experience as a father
-Doesn’t think he is better than anyone; commitment over innate ability
Approach to mental health– Address harm done on social media
– Create peer jury to hold students accountable
-Wellness activities
-Prioritize balance: “progress over perfectionism.”
-Leverage advisories
-Introduce a “character trait of the month” to highlight SEL importance
– Specialize social workers by grade level
-Offer himself, teachers, and Director of Climate and Culture as resources
-Provide students strategies to transition to Payton and have balanced lives
– Coordinate with counselors and Director of Climate and Culture
-Proactive, not reactive, systems for grief support and SEL integration in every classroom
-Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports that are thoughtfully planned-out ahead of time
Self-expressed mistakes and how to address them– Didn’t do enough at Payton to build relationships with teachers early on; in the future, will provide more support for those who want it– Some issues collecting data led to COVID test delay at Lincoln Park; owned his mistake and earned trust from teachers by apologizing– Lack of knowledge about groups like Friends of Payton; would prioritize understanding it
-Scheduling issues at Taft; acknowledged error and worked with teacher to fix it
Response to biased-based harm (specifically race-based)– Doesn’t tolerate micro- and macro- aggressions
– Sent out a letter to the community the first day she started about an incident prior to her arrival
– Celebrate student culture
-Restorative one-on-one conversations
-Work with community to create a discipline system
– Create response structures ahead of time
-Honor students’ space and words
-Educating entire school community about various identity groups
Discipline system– Instate peer jury and/or honor code- Pointed to return of student incident report
-Lean on security, not teachers, in physical conflicts
– Find underlying cause
-Assume positive intent
-Don’t disrespect student autonomy to address behavioral issues
– Identify point people to deal with physical conflicts
-Identify what led to the conflict
-Ensure student belonging 
Communication– Weekly Payton Pulse
-300 emails a day, not all important
-Indicate it’s urgent if you want immediate response 
– Talk to students and teachers to guide actions
-Talked to 70% of faculty when implementing change
– Tries to answer all answers by end of the day
-Weekly community bulletin, includes questions from community
Concrete actions to support Diverse Learners (DL)– Hire a director of DL support
-Community building within DL team
-Allow teachers to focus and specialize and limit the number of classes
– Hire a new position for the DL department
-Potentially hire an administrator with DL experience 
– Making each class as inclusive as possible
-Separating whole vs. small group instruction
-Weekly touch-points and shared planning time 
Challenges with principalship – 5Essentials survey- teacher-principal trust was ”very weak.”
-Answered that data is subjective, the District is going through and reevaluating it
-Doesn’t want to micromanage
– Has not previously been a principal
-Admits would have to deal with added responsibilities, obligations, and commitments of a principal
– Has not previously been a principal
-Acknowledges the transition is very challenging no matter the preparation
-Would work to learn new skills
Building and maintaining trust among faculty– Will fight against the mistrust bred by CPS between principals and teachers
-Work on honesty and bridge-building 
– Respect for all members of Payton community
-Emphasis on listening
-Be responsive, proactive, transparent
– Relationships, interaction with faculty and students throughout the day
-Not accomplished through one meeting but through over time
Funding solutions– Bring additional students in to increase Student-Based Budget (SBB)
-Hire less experienced teachers to save costs
-Decrease reliance on FOP by creating 3-4 year budget plan
-Work for budget sustainability 
– Utilize people within building efficiently
-Maximize teaching/schedule efficiency 
-FOP funding a position should be a last resort
– Would first evaluate the budget and district-provided budget
-DL positions can be negotiated and district can allocate more teacher positions
-Starting process early to involve community and identify priorities
Would you teach a class? Yes! Spin or Psychology Yes!Not the first year, but yes! Inclusion chemistry class

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