News - Kane County

Geneva D304 superintendent finalists share history, vision for leadership

School board expected to choose next week

The Geneva School District 304 Board of Education invites the community, students, staff, teachers and administrators to meet the final candidates being considered for Superintendent of Schools. Elizabeth Freeman (left) and Andrew Barrett (right) will be questioned in two Community Stakeholder Forums that will run simultaneously on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

GENEVA – Geneva District 304 Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Teaching Andrew Barrett and District 300 Chief Academic Officer Elizabeth Freeman both fielded questions Tuesday from community members as they vie to be the district’s next superintendent.

A representative of Ray & Associates, the firm the district hired to assist in finding a new superintendent, moderated two 45-minute sessions held at Geneva Middle School North with questions submitted from the public. A recording of the sessions will be posted to the district’s website on Wednesday.

Barrett spoke of his 17 years in the district and his career from teaching third grade to being a middle school administrator, then a principal at Mill Creek Elementary School, leading up to his current position.

“You’ve got to be out working with people,” Barrett said, to a question about how he would connect with students and teachers.

“And I would like to … think if you ask the folks who work here in the district, who have seen that happen for the last 17 years, I think that the way you stay connected is by being visible. And that’s not just in the schools and the events in the schools, but that’s in curriculum meetings or working with teachers on new processes.”

Barrett said it’s not possible to be at everything all the time, but by managing time, a superintendent can be at a high school basketball game and at an elementary school fun fair.

“When you need to make decisions later, it’s those relationships and connections that help us do that,” Barrett said.

Freeman spoke of her 28 years in public education, 11 as a classroom teacher and 17 years as an administrator.

“I started as a middle school teacher in a very challenged middle school in Waukegan,” Freeman said. “And in Waukegan, I really learned what it takes to make it in a classroom. And it really comes down to relationships. I taught eighth grade French for a number of years in Waukegan at a Title 1 school, which served children with real challenges.”

Freeman also taught high school, was a curriculum director for a high school in Rochelle, and Assistant Superintendent of Innovative Teaching and Technology in Mundelein from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

“So tonight, I come to you with that span of experience from pre-k to high school, which I think is so important here in the unit district you have,” Freeman said. “As Chief Academic Officer, I help guide our district in things academic – right? Teaching, instruction – all the way from our kindergarten classrooms all the way through 12th grade.”

Freeman said she would stay connected through the options offered, whether to classroom teachers or students.

“I think in this school district, you just have so many opportunities for involvement and I would love any one of those,” Freeman said. “You have a strong arts program, music program, athletic program – so many options that are here for the children in your community and it speaks to what you value as parents in the community. What I can infer, is that your children should be well-rounded, that you want your students to have lots of options ahead of them.”

As to the single most essential element as a superintendent, and why, Barrett said, “We are here to make a difference in our kids’ lives for a society that desperately needs smart, caring, kind and hard-working people in it.”

“I also think this is not an easy job and the responsibility of a public school district is not easy,” Barrett said. “The way you get through difficult things is by working together. And you can’t get through difficult stuff if you don’t have relationships.”

For Freeman, the single most essential element is the span of responsibility that a superintendent has.

“If I were to narrow in on one area that I think is most essential in this role, it’s that of communicator and champion of public education,” Freeman said. “Public education, right now, is under tremendous scrutiny from all different areas. And it’s important that you have a superintendent that represents your community, that advocates for the incredible work that happens.”

Freeman said she toured some of the district’s schools Tuesday and was impressed with the rich learning environment she saw.

“And I think being able to share that story is of utmost importance for your superintendent – to champion the work that our teachers do, all of our support staff members, our parent educators – it’s a tremendous asset to our community " Freeman said. “And it’s important that the superintendent share that message with anyone who will listen.”

To a question about what new idea in education would Barrett like to implement in the district, he said it still depends on relationships.

“It’s easy for me to come in and have a thousand ideas,” Barrett said. “But the things that we should do are the things we decided together. And that might mean whether I’m working with my administrative team, whether I’m working with principals, or with teachers, or working with parents in the community – I think there’s a lot of innovation can happen in our district.”

The school board is scheduled to meet in executive session Wednesday to decide on a candidate, which is expected to be announced by Jan. 31, officials said.