Eric Steinmiller

A new principal will lead Sutherland Elementary School beginning July 1.

Eric Steinmiller, 35, verbally accepted the position after receiving an offer by phone on May 1.

“I am extremely excited to be part of such a wonderful community,” Steinmiller said.

Steinmiller, the resident principal at North Lawndale College Prep Charter High School, was one of two candidates who participated in a principal candidate forum at Sutherland, 10015 S. Leavitt St., on May 1. He and candidate Lisa Dallacqua, the current assistant principal at Inter-American Magnet School in Lakeview, had about 30 minutes each to introduce themselves and answer a series of questions submitted by stakeholders before the event.

After the forum, the Sutherland Local School Council (LSC) convened at the office of 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea to decide to whom a contract would be offered.

A native of Arkansas, Steinmiller holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Ozarks and a master’s degree from the University of North Texas. He is currently enrolled in the Urban Education Leadership program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a four-year doctoral program that he expects to complete in 2017.

Steinmiller described himself as an “artist and continuous learner” who is passionate about life and dedicated to family and community. He is a sports enthusiast who played soccer in college and a world traveler who lived in Italy, noting the presence of French culture throughout the Sutherland school building.

During his presentation, Steinmiller said he intends to build upon the strengths at Sutherland—the school’s high academic expectations, strong instructional core, Middle Years International Baccalaureate Program and dedicated parents and staff—to achieve even greater academic success.

His priorities at Sutherland include creating a high school pathways program to help students find the best college fit; creating community and internal opportunities for extracurricular and curricular activities; and bridging the gap between demographic populations while increasing all student development.

A “big team person,” Steinmiller said he hopes to build relationships between teachers to facilitate collaboration and will create a parent advisory board to open the lines of communication between administrators, faculty and parents.

When asked, Steinmiller said he wants to convey “a love for learning” at Sutherland to inspire kids to reach their full potential. That message is evident already, he said.

“I was so excited to see the mural on the wall … the images and artwork on the walls; [it demonstrates] students are involved, and they’re enjoying what they’re doing,” Steinmiller said. “I want to expand that; I want to see more of that—celebrating this learning, celebrating this thinking.”

Steinmilller’s hiring is the culmination of an intensive selection process, said LSC Chairperson Julie O’Connor, that began earlier this year when the Sutherland LSC voted in favor of not renewing a four-year contract for Principal Catherine Gannon.

Gannon vowed to appeal the decision and entered into arbitration to overturn the LSC’s decision.

Undaunted, the LSC moved forward with the principal-selection process, citing information provided by Chicago Public Schools officials that no principal has ever won such arbitration. However, O’Connor said, Steinmiller’s contract will include a clause nullifying the agreement should Gannon win the arbitration and return to the school as principal.

Although July 1 is his official starting date as principal, Steinmiller said he hopes to begin the “data collection process” as soon as the paperwork is signed.