Yonke passes on role of superintendent after 13 years at New Trier

A look back on the work of Superintendent Yonke as she wraps up her final year

Yonke passes on role of superintendent after 13 years at New Trier

Connor Josellis, Editor-in-Chief

After 13 years at New Trier, 11 as superintendent, Yonke is handing over the reigns on July 1 to associate Superintendent Dr. Paul Sally. Yonke will work part time to finish up the facilities project until September.

Although the addition of the new wing and the facilities project may be Yonke’s most visible accomplishment, a lot of Yonke’s actions go unnoticed by the students, like her passion for bringing in teachers.

“She tells us that the most important thing we do as administrators is to find talented teachers for our students. She has been a strong believer in that and in supporting the excellence of our teachers and making sure that when we have openings in our school that we bring excellent teachers into the building,” Assistant Supt. for student services Dr. Tim Hayes said.

Yonke has worked in many school districts and was an English teacher before becoming an administrator.

She said that some of her proudest moments were working with teachers.

“We worked on a new teacher evaluation system, revising our merit pay system for teachers, and implementing this new requirement that we incorporate student growth into the teacher evaluation.”

All three of those are things that no high school has done, even though two of them were requirements by the state. We did them in a way no one else did and I believe we did it better than anybody else,” Yonke said.

Although Yonke’s tenure has been an era promoting change and challenging ideas, with the facilities project and other institutional improvements, she sometimes struggled with fostering progress while maintaining New Trier’s tradition.

She said there could sometimes be a reluctance to change.

“As an institution, we try to change something fundamental like final exams and why do we do them and what benefit they bring. It’s difficult to bring that kind of conversation because there’s a feeling that, if we don’t do [exams] [students] won’t be ready for college. We are also almost limited by our own success [since] kids do so well in college and on test scores; we’re doing something right so why would we change,”  said Yonke. .

Acknowledging that it is not a critique of the school she said, “teachers here are innovative, creative, and they do different things all the time.”

After she is done working part time to finish up the construction project, Yonke plans to travel to Paris and other parts of Europe, where she jokingly said she will finally take her semester abroad after studying French in high school and college.

Yonke  plans to step away from the community after retirement in order to let Sally have his independence.

“I wouldn’t necessarily get involved in this community. It is really important for me to step away, and let the new superintendent be in charge, but I can’t see myself being entirely out of education.”

Yonke said she has always been interested in politics and has a few avenues to follow in those regards but denies any potential run for office, saying she would only be involved in some campaigning.

On the role of superintendent she said, “The most important thing, administratively, that we can do is make sure that great teachers are in the classroom and they are free to teach.”

Yonke’s successor Dr. Paul Sally, has been associate superintendent for eight years and has worked closely with Yonke for years.

On advice Yonke has for Sally, she said: “Always step back and look at the big picture, you can get so wrapped up in the details.”