Wednesday, May 27, 2015 || By Michael Romain
MELROSE PARK || A crowd of at least 60 people convened today, Wed., May 27, at the Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89 administrative offices, 906 Walton Street, to meet David Negron (pictured), the district’s newest superintendent. Negron is the principal of Heritage Middle School of District 104 in Summit, Illinois. According to Negron, Heritage has a population of about 570 sixth through eighth grade students. His effective start date with D89 is July 1, he said.
Negron has a background in school social work and was formerly a bilingual education teacher before becoming a principal. He also has roots in Melrose Park, where he was employed by Westlake Hospital for over a year, and in Maywood, where some of his family members resided before moving to Texas, Negron said.
Board member Regina Rivers said Negron was selected from a pool of about 40 candidates and that his bilingual education background was particularly attractive.
“He came from a district that is similar to ours and has the [middle school] structure,” she said. “That he is bilingual also helps a whole lot when dealing with parents of both [African American and Hispanic] ethnicities. It will also be important when [working with] the dual language academy.”
District 89 board member Dianne Williams said that the presence of a community focus group enhanced the hiring process, which Rivers said was facilitated by an outside party. Williams said the focus group comprised a range of people, including district principals, union reps, district office staff members, parents and teachers.
“That was really important for us to hear the feedback from them,” Williams said of the focus group, adding that the group was almost unanimous in its support for Negron.
Williams noted that an important aspect of Negron’s candidacy was his committment to stay for the long haul. Former D89 superintendent Michael Robey was with the district for three years before his resignation last summer. Williams said Robey left “on his own accord.”
“Dr. Robey did great things for us and we appreciate what he did, but we do need someone who is going to stay longer and Mr. Negron assured us that that was one of his goals.”
Negron said that part of what lured him to the position with the district is its diversity and its early implementation of the dual language magnet school.
“The culture of diversity in this community was something very appealing to me,” Negron said. “Many districts I’ve been in were just one suburb, one community. [Another thing] that attracted me to the district is its vision of implementing dual language [learning]. That goes back to the culture of diversity. I’m looking forward to the challenge of rolling that out year after year.”
Negron also addressed the issue of communication, which seems to have been a chronic problem during the 2014-15 academic year in which the district transitioned to a middle school format and opened a dual language magnet school. Negron said communication between administration officials, parents, students and staff members is high among his immediate priorities going into the new job.
“Communication was definitely a hot topic of discussion during the job interview process,” he said. “I have what I call an open door policy. A lot of people say that, but not a lot of people mean that. I have no problem with parents calling me directly with their concerns and tough questions. My intention is to communicate with parents on a weekly basis; daily if necessary.”
Negron said that he hopes to create a superintendent’s parent advisory council comprising members of the community, with a representative from each municipality that D89 covers. The council would meet with Negron on a regular basis in order for him to get a ground level sense of what is happening in each community.
But the communication pipeline seemed to be greased immediately during this Wednesday’s meet-and-greet. Among those in attendance were Maywood’s new village manager Willie Norfleet.
“I’m out to support and welcome another partner in raising the quality of life for the children in [District 89] as well as in the Village of Maywood,” Norfleet said.
Larry Shapiro, the senior services coordinator for Maywood and a suburban liasion for U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), said he’s looking forward to building on past engagement between the village’s seniors and the school district.
“The [Maywood] Senior Club has actually had children’s choirs from the district to come [perform],” he said. “We want to continue to involve our seniors with our schools and our children so we can have that intergenerational relationship.”
Barbara Cole, the executive director of Maywood Youth Mentoring, said she’s hoping to engage Negron in conversations about enhancing parental involvement within the district.
“I’m looking forward to working with [Negron] on improving parent involvement, which is a key component of improving academics for all children,” Cole said.
For his part, Negron said that he’s ready to begin these many, diverse conversations and noted that he intends to systematize the community dialogue.
“I think you need to put systems in place to make communication happen,” he said. “It doesn’t happen on its own.” VFP