District 91's new superintendent, Dr. Elizabeth Alvarez | Photo provided

On July 1, Forest Park Elementary School District 91’s new superintendent, Dr. Elizabeth Alvarez, begins her tenure, as previous superintendent Dr. Lou Cavallo retires after 14 years in the district.

In a recent letter to families in the district, Alvarez reached out to talk about starting in D91 and her core values and goals.

“I am honored and excited to be selected as the new superintendent of this magnificent district,” Alvarez wrote.

When the Review interviewed Alvarez after she was hired in January, she spoke about one of her biggest goals in education being to make everyone feel included, and she repeated that sentiment in her recent communication to district stakeholders.

“As an educator, my core values revolve around bringing a sense of belonging in every aspect of schooling,” Alvarez said. “When you feel you belong, from secretaries, food staff, aides, teachers, parents and especially our students, then you are able to put forth your best in all you do and you believe in yourself. This sense of belonging provides a feeling of non-judgment, where mistakes are expected, accepted and respected allowing all the comfort to grow, continue to be curious and innovate.”

In fact, Alvarez identified a sense of belonging as one of her three core values, in addition to ensembles and systems for success. Ensembles, said Alvarez, “ensure collective efficacy among all leaders (board, school leaders, teachers, school partners and all stakeholders).”

Systems for success include professional learning, focused on innovation, and ensuring that student assessments “are valid, reliable, fair, bias-free and culturally relevant for ALL our students.”

Alvarez also wrote about the importance of equity, including the need to continue to address educational gaps in learning and teaching.

Her first goal as superintendent in the district is to listen and learn, especially during the first 90 days of her tenure. She mentioned the time she’s already spent at board meetings and talking to board members, principals and staff, and union leaders. Alvarez has also met with village leadership, including Mayor Rory Hoskins.

Reaching out to meet with the community, said Alvarez, will help her “gain insights about strengths, areas of growth, challenges and next steps” and to develop “positive relationships and trust in order to build on the greatness and integrity of District 91.”

Her second goal is to design a strategic plan for the future of the district.

Finally, she plans to implement that strategic plan, through collaboration with the board, district and community. Part of that involves strong communication between the district and its stakeholders, as Alvarez said she wants to “cultivate transparency, trust, communication” and ensure that the five district schools are represented and supported in an equitable manner.

And Alvarez wants to “promote D91 as a high performing district, where students lift their heads high with pride when they graduate from D91 knowing they are prepared for high school and beyond as our next generation of leaders.”

Alvarez was hired after an extensive search by the D91 school board. Her hiring was announced in January. Her contract runs from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2024. She’ll be paid $180,000 the first year, and her salary will be determined by the board for the following years. Alvarez taught middle school for 13 years, served as an assistant principal for two years and a principal for six years. Most recently she was chief of schools for Chicago Public Schools for five years.

For more information, visit fpsd91.org.