District 97 Appoints Three New Administrators

During its meeting on March 13, 2018, the Board of Education unanimously approved the appointment of three new administrators. The board hired Paul Starck-King as the district’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations. He will be replacing Dr. Alicia Evans, who resigned in December to accept the position of assistant superintendent of business operations in a south suburban school district. Dr. Tawanda Lawrence was hired to be the district’s senior director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. She will be replacing Dr. Helen Wei, who resigned from her position in January. The board also hired Patrick Robinson as the new principal for Whittier Elementary School. He will be taking over for Scott Kasik and Jim Doyle, who have been serving as the school’s interim co-principals this year.

“I want to thank Alicia, Helen, Scott and Jim for their service to our students and community,” said Superintendent Carol Kelley. “I also want to welcome Paul, Tawanda and Patrick to our district. Their talents and expertise, coupled with their commitment to education and passion for learning, will help us advance our vision, build on the success of our schools and enable our students to realize their full potential.”

Starck-King joins District 97 after spending two years as the director of finance and operations for the ECHO Joint Agreement, which is a special education cooperative that serves 1,000 students from 17 south suburban member districts. Prior to that, he was the chief financial officer for Antioch Community Consolidated School District 34 for five years, and the business manager for Oak Grove School District 68 for two years. He also taught math for five years at Proviso West High School 209.
Starck-King earned his bachelor’s degree in accountancy from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, his master’s degree in educational leadership from National-Louis University, and his administrative certificate with a chief school business officer endorsement from Northern Illinois University. He is also currently working on his doctorate in educational leadership from Concordia University Chicago. Starck-King, who currently resides in Glenview and is married with two adult sons, said he has always considered Oak Park to be a destination location.
“I have long respected and admired Oak Park’s steadfast belief in the importance of education and tireless support of its schools,” said Starck-King. “That is why I consider it a true privilege both personally and professionally to be joining District 97. It is also why I am eager to begin the important work that must be done to preserve and protect the long-term stability of our schools, foster the continued success of all students and meet the needs of the entire community.”

Prior to joining District 97, Lawrence held two administrative positions in Country Club Hills School District 160. She served as the director of curriculum, instruction and technology for the past three years, and the director for curriculum and instruction for the year prior to that. She was the principal at A.O. Marshall Elementary School in Joliet for six years, assistant principal at Washington Jr. High School and Academy in Joliet for four years and a music teacher at Horace Greeley Elementary School in Chicago for one year. She was also an assistant principal for one year and dean of students for two years at Dirksen Jr. High in Joliet.

Lawrence earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from Eastern Illinois University, her master’s degree in administration and supervision from Roosevelt University, and her doctorate in educational leadership from DePaul University. She currently resides in Chicago, and is excited about what lies ahead in District 97 and Oak Park.

“I am truly honored to have the opportunity to serve the students, staff and community of Oak Park,” said Lawrence. “I want to thank the Board of Education and Superintendent Kelley for giving me the chance to use my knowledge, skills and experience to support the academic growth and excellence of every child in District 97. I am incredibly excited about the work I will be undertaking to help realize the vision and achieve the goals of the district.”

Robinson worked at Urban Prep Academies for Young Men in Chicago for six years prior to his arrival in District 97. He served as the principal for Urban Prep’s West Campus for the past three years, and the school’s director of curriculum and instruction for the three years before that. He was also a new teacher induction coach for one year at the New Teacher Center in Chicago, and taught for six years at elementary schools in Galeburg and Chicago.

Robinson earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Monmouth College, and his master’s degree in school leadership and post-graduate superintendent endorsement from Concordia University. He currently lives in Chicago with his wife and two young children, and is looking forward to working with faculty, staff and families to help Whittier students thrive both in and out of the classroom.

"I am immensely humbled to have been chosen as the new principal for John Greenleaf Whittier Elementary School,” said Robinson. “I consider it a true honor to join forces with a renowned team of faculty and staff, and an exceptional community of students and families. It is through the collective efforts of these remarkable individuals that I believe we can build on Whittier’s tradition of excellence and help every child at this school learn, grow and achieve.”

In addition to welcoming the district’s new administrators, Superintendent Kelley expressed her appreciation to the parents/guardians, faculty and staff members who assisted with the search for these positions.

“I want to thank the members of the District 97 community who participated in this important process,” said Kelley. “Their significant contributions to our search efforts helped us find three exemplary educators and dedicated professionals who I believe will have a positive and lasting impact on our schools and the more than 6,000 children we serve.”

Starck-King, Lawrence and Robinson each received one-year contracts, and will officially begin their tenures with the district on July 1, 2018. With that said, Robinson will be working with Kasik and Doyle in the days ahead to ensure that there is a smooth transition in leadership at Whittier.