D200 supt. announces retirement

Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams cited family reasons for decision to retire effective July 1, 2021

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

District 200 Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams will retire at the end of this school year. The D200 school board voted to approve her retirement, which goes into effect on July 1, 2021, during its regular meeting on Nov. 19.

Pruitt-Adams announced her decision at the beginning of Thursday night's board meeting.

"What started out as a one-year interim position grew into five years of a labor of love," she said. "I have grown so much personally and professionally being here at [Oak Park and River Forest High School], but I would be remiss if I did not say it's also been a challenge — both personally and professionally.

"Being away from family has been difficult and it's time for me to return," she said. "I've been in education 44 years, 30 of which have been in administration and I have had the luxury of those 44 years doing the only thing I have ever aspired to do in my life and that was to be an educator."

Pruitt-Adams will return to St. Louis where her family has continued to live during her time in Oak Park.

Holding back tears, school board member Jackie Moore praised Pruitt-Adams for her five years at OPRF.

"We've done a lot of learning and growing and a lot of that was under her tutelage," said Moore. "I'm also grateful that she's modeling self-care for us, so I appreciate that."

Pruitt-Adams began her tenure at OPRF in the summer of 2016, in an interim role, after former superintendent Stephen Isoye unexpectedly resigned to take the top job at Niles Township High Schools District 219. She was hired as the district's permanent superintendent in December, to great fanfare.

Pruitt-Adams appeared to have met board members' expectations. Just last year, the board unanimously approved a three-year contract with the superintendent that would have lasted through the 2021-22 school year.

In a statement released late Thursday night, Pruitt-Adams called her tenure at OPRF a "labor of love," adding that her position has been "an extraordinarily intense job in the best of times.

"Doing this job while my husband and family have remained in St. Louis has been doubly hard. The toll has been tremendous, both personally and professionally. It's bittersweet for me, but I know it's time for me to return home."

Pruitt-Adams is planning to leave as the district attempts to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic and what will almost certainly be difficult financial circumstances. District 200, as with many school districts, will face revenue shortfalls from a pandemic-related recession, and state and federal budget crunches.

In her statement, Pruitt-Adams listed a litany of administration and board achievements during her tenure, including the creation of a strategic plan "that gives the district the direction to become an exemplary school district," the implementation of racial equity and gender equity policies, the start of a detracking process that will entail all freshman students having access to honors-level courses in most subjects and the implementation of the most comprehensive facilities improvement plan in a half-century.

"My tenure here at Oak Park and River Forest High School has been the most amazing and challenging of my 44 years as an educator," Dr. Pruitt-Adams said. "Each of these accomplishments has come with enormous challenges. I thank all who have worked in partnership to navigate those difficulties and who remain focused on doing what is best for our students."

Sara Dixon Spivy, the current D200 school board president, said that Pruitt-Adams has "led the district with quiet grace and confidence through issues difficult and novel — from the release of America to Me at the beginning of her tenure to implementation of remote learning during a worldwide pandemic.

"Through it all, our students' well-being has remained her constant focus. Dr. Pruitt-Adams's legacy cannot be overstated; she has championed racial and gender equity and built an executive cabinet brimming with talent. While the Board is very sorry to see her go, she is leaving us well-equipped to meet the challenges ahead, and we are grateful for her service to the district."

Contact:
Email: michael@oakpark.com

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Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Bill Maxwell  

Posted: November 23rd, 2020 7:37 PM

Gregg Kuenster if your numbers are correct, it is nice to know there are some people getting something out of the high school

Gregg Kuenster from CPA  

Posted: November 23rd, 2020 11:09 AM

The pension bump and golden parachute will most likely be honored. If the employee was in an educational or State of Illinois pension plan prior to January 1, 2011, the service at OPRF would likely be reciprocal and honored by the original contract with the pension funds. Some highly compensated employees are wary of an attempt to cap individual pension payouts due to the State of Illinois being broke. It is almost certain that this debt will be added to our property tax bills in the future. Currently, the debt is covered in a teachers fund guaranteed by the state. The State of Illinois will most likely send this debt back to the local school districts so that the state can balance the budget. Our property tax could explode. The pension sweet spot for many highly compensated employees is around 20 years. That is the point at which the pension pay out starts to level out ? all things considered. The payout most likely is $ 150,000 or more a year annuitized over the projected lifetime with a 3% annual increase. Somewhere between 4 and 5 million in present day dollars. OPRF is deferring this expense. The expense will be added to future homeowners property tax bills. Future pension cost should be a consideration in the next hire. Future pension cost should be a consideration in the next hire. Future pension cost should be a consideration in the next hire. Our homes will become worthless if the AVERAGE home becomes saddled with $ 50,000 in annual property tax. Who can afford to pay $4,000 a month in property tax?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 22nd, 2020 5:24 PM

@ Kathy Hefner. Dr Pruitt was hired after 2011, so that Tier 2 TRS pension rules apply. As such, a teacher needs 10 yrs, and not five, for full vesting. As near as I can tell, Dr. Pruitt is eligible for a refund of all her contributions to the TRS plan over the past five years. Of course, the taxpayers of D200 were generous enough to "pick up" that annual 7% obligation, as per her last contract, so she should at least walk away with that ... but no more. Of course it is possible to transfer out of state pension credits to TRS if one chooses, but that can be complicated, expensive and limited by statute. Bottom line: she walks away with her annual 7% contributions and no more. Anyone who is expert on these matters please correct me if I am wrong.

Kathy Hefner from Oak Park  

Posted: November 22nd, 2020 3:30 PM

Five years of employment. Perfect match to the vesting schedule for another pension, (five years). Coincidence, I think not.

Teresa Powell  

Posted: November 20th, 2020 4:13 PM

I no longer have kids at the high school but have appreciated her leadership in challenging and changing times. Best wishes as you return to your family, Dr. Pruitt-Adams!

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2020 2:21 PM

OPRF was already an exemplary school district. A place where you could send your child and, if they did the work, when they graduated they were not just ready for college, they would depart having about a half a year of college credits built up, worth about $10k in college tuition you didn't have to pay for. The biggest legacy take away from Dr P-A's time here was the total ignoring of the referendum vote result on the Pool.

Richard Lane from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2020 12:21 PM

IMAGINE that!

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