New EC school superintendent exudes confidence
EAST CHICAGO — Youssef Yomtoob has yet to meet a school district on which he can’t have a positive effect.
The new School City of East Chicago superintendent, affectionately nicknamed “Dr. Joe” by those who know him, told the crowd of parents, teachers and administrators that everyone “is in it together” and that there will be no “they and us” once he takes over the reins July 1. The School Board voted unanimously to offer Yomtoob a five-year contract at a special meeting Friday night, the terms of which will be discussed during a public hearing at the June 30 meeting.
Yomtoob, whose career spanned 50 years before he retired from Hawthorn School District in Vernon Hills, Illinois, said his philosophy stems from research at a district he was in during the 1970s that revealed all students, despite their racial or economic backgrounds, have the potential to succeed. He carried those principles everywhere he went and said he left each place a little better than he found it.
“I don’t believe in failing, I only believe in success,” Yomtoob said. “We’re going to work to show we have the best school system here in East Chicago.”
Much of that will come in the form of working on student achievement, his first priority, as well as earning and garnering the respect of other units in the city. Yomtoob has not yet met Mayor Anthony Copeland, for example, but he hopes they’ll be able to create a positive relationship.
The board agreed that Yomtoob will be a tremendous asset to the struggling district. Board trustee Frank Ramirez said there was no way he could let Yomtoob get by.
“I will sleep better knowing we made the right choice (in Yomtoob),” trustee Joel Rodriguez said.
Chris Gestiakowski, East Chicago Central High School instructional leader for early college, was impressed with Yomtoob’s confidence.
“He’s not intimidated by the problems we’re facing,” she said. “We have someone who wants to work.”
Yomtoob, who lives in Riverwoods, Illinois, with his wife, Parichehr, received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Manchester College; his master of arts degree from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich.; a master of science degree from the University of Notre Dame; and his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio. He’s also conducted post-doctoral studies at several Michigan universities.
He retired from Hawthorn in 2009 after 13 years and was asked to come back as a special consultant to Willow Run Schools in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 2010, after spending seven years there previously.
“I have one more life in education, and it’s here in East Chicago,” Yomtoob said.