Jim Mitchem never expected smooth sailing.
But the next superintendent of the Valley View School District may not have thought the water would grow so choppy as quickly as it has.
Having yet to spend an official day as the head of the district, Mitchem and his decision-making has already come under fire in the form of his first official hire—his successor as principal, Fabby Williams.
But Mitchem remains sold on the idea of self-accountability.
“I’ve said that in three years, if this [district] isn’t a better place, I deserve to be scrutinized,” he said. “I believe we have the capacity to be a better place than we are now, and I believe that with every fiber of my being. But if I cannot convince this district of the same thing and I cannot put systems in place to impact kids, then I’m going to be in a bad wave very soon.
“Do I expect it to be a smooth ride? No, and I know it won’t. Ultimately, I will hold myself accountable for all things Valley View.”
If that’s the hand Mitchem is playing, he’s certainly going all-in early.
Mitchem hired Williams in February to guide the district’s most visible school. Mitchem called it that will move BHS in the right direction.
But a little more than three months after Williams’ hiring, reports surfaced that in his current post as interim principal at Austin Polytechnical Academy of the Chicago Public Schools system.
According to a Huffington Post Chicago report, Austin Polytech is not performing well by most standards. Its attendance rates are low and few students are reading at grade level. A HuffPost Chicago analysis of the school's ACT scores, taken by its first-ever class of juniors last year, shows that it performed in the bottom quarter of all Chicago high schools on that test.
Mitchem said Williams was likely brought in to Austin Polytech to salvage those abysmal test scores—the school posted a 9 percent success rate in last year’s Adequate Yearly Progress mark, a key measuring stick in the No Child Left Behind program.
Those numbers speak volumes to Mitchem, who called Williams a .
“All I can look at is what I can look at and that is [Austin Polytech’s] AYP numbers,” Mitchem said. “Look at what is going on now there. You can draw your own conclusions based on that. The numbers speak for themselves as far as I’m concerned.
"I shudder to think what this community would say about teachers if only 9 percent meet or exceed the standard.”