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5 Questions with Gerald Hill, West Bloomfield Schools' New Superintendent

Hill spoke to Patch over the phone from his home in Glenview, IL, where he worked for eight years as superintendent before tentatively accepting the job Saturday.

The day after being interviewed and just hours after he was offered the job, Illinois educator Gerald Hill tentatively agreed to become superintendent of the .

Hill, 60, the retiring superintendent of the school district in Glenview, IL, after the West Bloomfield Board of Education unanimously voted to extend an offer.

Hill spoke to West Bloomfield Patach over the phone from his home in Glenview on Sunday afternoon.

1. As the job seems to require a superintendent to be visible amongst the community, could you give some details to your personal life?

My wife, Cindy, and I have been married since college. We met in high school but we both went to the University of Minnesota. We have a grown son; he and his wife live in the Los Angeles, CA, area. We have a 1-year-old granddaughter who is just the joy of everyone’s life. We have family in Texas, Minnesota and out east. The funny part is that we don't have family in the Chicago area. 

2. It's known that you've interviewed in Massachusetts and Minnesota for other superintendent positions, so why take a pay cut (Hill's job in Glenview paid $270,000 a year; the West Bloomfield job pays $190,000 a year) to come to West Bloomfield? Why retire from Glenview to do so?

Taking a pay cut would’ve happened no matter where I went. My intent, which I determined a couple of years ago, would be that I would work two more years in Glenview to help facilitate the move out. My replacement there was named last October and had been groomed for a while. In my situation, I’m able to take advantage of retiring from the system and moving to another state. I didn't want to stop working, but I didn't expect a raise in compensation. Then it became a choice of where we would want to live and the community we’d want to become involved in. By the way, I do appreciate the compensation in West Bloomfield.

A good way to see the system is to drive through the neighborhoods around the schools, and we did that when we came here for the interview and really found the community very attractive — a lot of parks, a lot of lakes, it looks like a good place for families to move to and want to stay in.

3. How do you feel about the challenges that you've dealt with in Glenview in contrast to those with you expect to deal with in West Bloomfield?

I'm definitely aware of this in doing my due diligence in finding out what’s happening in West Bloomfield. Glenview is similar in a lot of ways. It's not an easy situation for a school district to reduce the budget and in Glenview, we were looking at budget reductions between $1.8 million and 3.6 million this past year. The board determined to cut $1.8 million. We have a structural budget deficit and will have to look at other cuts. 

We have the luxury in my budget here in having reserve funds to cut the deficit. The decisions are more urgent in West Bloomfield because of the reserve funding we have available.

I'm looking forward to joining what we call in Illinois a "unit" district, meaning K-12, as Glenview is a K-8 district which works closely with a 9-12 district. My wife and I currently attend a lot of high school events and of course I'm looking forward to the high school in West Bloomfield.

4. You said that the two districts are similar in a lot of ways, which was echoed by the West Bloomfield Board of Education. Could you expand on that?

There are high performance expectations, high community expectations for doing what’s best for students academically and fine arts, and high engagement of community members with the school system. That’s exactly the kind of situation I’m in now.

We have a lot of community task forces, one involving long-range financial planning and another looking at how we’re spending and investing the resources we have, both of which I'm involved in. Other similar community organizations we have are active educational foundations and parent-teacher organizations, which I'm looking to be involved with here.

From my perspective, both boards are focused on the right elements. They feel like they have high quality faculty and staff and we do as well. 

5. Given your experiences in interviewing with other districts, do you feel as though this has been a fast transition from interview to potentially accepting the contract?

I appreciate the decisiveness of the board in West Bloomfield. Extending a search over several weeks is difficult for both the candidates and the system. I had interviewed in Minneapolis-St. Paul and they had eight candidates interviewed, while most candidates are looking at two, three, four different opportunities and that's tough. In truth, it becomes apparent early in conversation if you have a match between the candidates' skills and leadership along with the needs of the district and I think we had it here. The search firm exercised due diligence prior to the actual contact being made.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell the community?

Just that I'm thrilled and honored to be the next superintendent in West Bloomfield and I look forward to engaging with the board and staff and community and doing what’s right for the interest of the students.

Judy Herman May 07, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Thanks Tim. Given the interview timing and the speedy decision, this glimpse at our new superintendent is definitely appreciated.
Louise Cantor May 07, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Thanks, Mr. Rath. You have given the school community an opportunity to feel engaged with the selection even though the only interview was not televised. It sounds like Mr. Hill could not have remained superintendent in Glenvieiw even if he changed his mind about retiring. Did the board ask Mr. Hill what cuts were made in Glenview to deal with their structural deficit? Did the board ask him about Glenview's inclusion, early childhood, and magnet programs? Did they ask about the new national standards and how he is helping align Glenview's curriculum to the new standards? He sounds charming and I'm sure that is why the vote was unanimous. However, the WBSD is dealing with a real crisis if declining enrollment (reverse choice) and gaining insight into his budget approach should have been a priority. But the school community will never know if these kind of questions were asked. I have never heard of a k-8 unit system. Did the board ask him what kinds of partnerships did his K-8 unit have with the k-12 unit? What would he improve at the K-12 unit level or in his own k-8 unit?
Louise Cantor May 07, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Correction: k-8 district and 9-12 district. Again, I wonder what budget cuts have been made in Glenview in dealing with their structural budget deficit?
Jennifer Gordon Ribiat May 07, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Sounds very encouraging! Looking forward to meeting Mr.Hill as one of the presidents ( co- sharing with Staci Goldman) of Orchard Lake Middle School PTO for 2012/2013 school year.
Mary Tryszczyla May 07, 2012 at 11:27 PM
In my experience quick decisions don't always pay off, I believe a little more time or a second interview may have been in order for a district with such deep financial concerns. I sincerely hope that Mr. Hill speaks the truth when talking about wanting whats best for students, that part of our administration has been missing for too long!
Melanie sharee Rutherford May 15, 2012 at 04:17 AM
I am a parent who benefits from school of choice. I made a decision to be fully involved with my child's education . That being said I am conerned that not enough research was done in the selection process. The WBSD prides itself on the best of the best Can we truly look at the record of his previous school district and say that It beams with confidence. We as parent need to ensure that The Job waS GIVEN TO THE BEST NOT THE bEST RIGHT NOW.

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