Judy Hawkins, first principal of 'West Campus,' to retire after current school yearJudy Hawkins, the first principal of both the elementary and middle school at what's become known as the “West Campus,” will retire after this school year.
Culminating 35 years as a school teacher or administrator (the last 25 in District 11), she has headed West since 2013. “I thoroughly enjoyed being here,” she said. “It's been a great way to end my career.”
The district has begun seeking a replacement. A goal is to bring the new principal on board before Hawkins' departure, so she could help with the transition.
The current hiring status is that the position has been publicly posted, and applications have been coming in. D-11 Human Resources officials have even taken the initiative to advertise the opening at a “minority recruitment fair in Chicago,” Ashby pointed out.
The candidate interview process is to include input from citizens who are on the school accountability committee, Ashby said.
The final hiring decision will be made by Gledich, with the Board of Education giving formal approval.
The school building opened in 1924 as West Junior High. In the 1990s, the name changed to West Middle School (grades 6-8). West Elementary (grades K-5) was created in Fall 2009, mainly to accommodate students from Whittier and Washington elementaries, which D-11 had closed earlier that year as part of a “consolidation” effort to deal with declining enrollment district-wide.
The two schools combined have an enrollment of about 600. Both are "Title 1" schools, meaning they qualify for additional assistance because more than 75 percent of the students come from families considered low-income.
During their first four years together, the elementary school and middle school each had its own principal. But D-11 changed that format going into the 2013-14 school year. As part of a district-wide restructuring by Gledich, a two-schools-in-one “campus” plan emerged. He reassigned the two previous principals elsewhere in the district and brought Hawkins over from North Middle School, where she had been principal for three years.
Also with that change, Gledich created a structure in which an assistant principal runs the day-to-day operations of each school. Karen Newton currently oversees the middle school and Chris Lehman the elementary.
When she started at West, Hawkins had the unusual situation of deciding where to put her office. In an interview with the Westside Pioneer at that time, she described how she decided to put it in an empty room in the middle of the building, roughly equidistant from the street entrance for each school.
In a recent interview, Hawkins expressed some regret for retiring two years after she'd started, saying that if she'd been given the West Campus assignment earlier in her career she would have wanted to stay with it.
A big reason for her retirement decision is a desire to spend time with her three grandchildren (and a fourth on the way), as well as with her mother, 88, who lives in Louisiana. “It's time to do something besides work 80 hours a week,” Hawkins said.
Westside Pioneer article