Sally to replace retiring Yonke as Superintendent

After the extensive search process, Paul Sally is chosen out of 35 candidates to suceed Dr. Yonke

Connor Josellis, Editor-in-Chief

At the Nov. 21 board meeting, current Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Paul Sally was chosen to take over as the district superintendent replacing Dr. Linda Yonke.

Yonke has led the district for 11 years beginning in 2006 and was the fifth district superintendent in 85 years. Yonke announced her plans to retire effective June 30 after postponing retirement twice.

Following Yonke’s retirement announcement this June, the board began an extensive superintendent search to name her replacement. They hired the recruitment firm School Exec Connect to help with the search.

The Board faced a difficult decision in replacing Yonke, Board of Education President Greg Robitaille said, “The Board had an enormous challenge to find a replacement for Dr. Yonke. For the past 11 years, Dr. Yonke’s strong leadership has benefitted our community’s high school and its students, teachers, staff and parents in very meaningful ways. We are deeply grateful for her contributions.”

In July and the months that followed, the firm built a profile for an ideal candidate. This profile used input from 19 focus groups comprising of students, faculty, and community members and an online survey that garnered 379 responses, according to Board President Greg  Robitaille.

Over 35 candidates either applied or were recruited. The pool of candidates was narrowed down to 11. From there, phone interviews were conducted, and then five candidates were called back for an initial face-to-face interview.

Three finalists returned to meet with the board and two other interview committees. The detailed input from the committees was given to the board, where a decision was made.

One of the final interviews Sally faced was over dinner, during Game 7 of the World Series, where board member Alan Dolinko said he received text updates from Yonke.

On Nov. 9 the full school board met and unanimously decided Sally will succeed Yonke. The entire process was kept confidential in order to not deter strong candidates from applying.

Sally graduated as valedictorian of his high school class at Evanston Township High School, holds a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics from Yale University and attended graduate school at Northwestern University, receiving a master’s degree in Computer Science. His parents were also mathematicians and his mother, Judith, attended the Nov. 21 board meeting.

Sally has worked at New Trier for the past 22 years, serving as the math coordinator at the Northfield campus, and Assistant Superintendent. In 2014, he became the district’s associate superintendent.

Sally also served in different leadership roles throughout the school, including the Board of Education Finance Committee, the Facilities Steering Committee, and he helped negotiate the past three faculty contracts on behalf of the board.

Yonke and Sally have worked together for 13 years and Yonke said she appreciates Sally not being afraid to disagree with her.

“He is a crucial member of the administrative team, a brilliant educational leader and an enthusiastic advocate for New Trier students, faculty and staff. I look forward to working with Paul to make sure the transition is a seamless one for New Trier,” Yonke said of Sally.

“I would like to thank the Board for their faith in me. I would also like to thank Dr. Yonke for her leadership, years of mentorship and commitment to making sure every student who enters New Trier finds a place to explore his or her unique passions,” Sally said in a short speech given at the board meeting.

During this speech, Sally focused on students. During the cake -cutting ceremony he said, “It’s truly an honor, I’m humbled, and I’m really excited. [New Trier] is just a great institution. It has such a deep tradition of excellence and innovation and that’s just exciting to think about how we move that forward and I think students are really an important part of that, I think we do a lot to involve students. Your voices matter.”