Executive director Wendy Katten announces her departure

Wendy Katten announced this week that she would be stepping down as Raise Your Hand's executive director. Her farewell message is after the jump.

Good morning, all. This one is not your regular update from me, and it's not an easy one to share. After seven years of working with all of you to create and grow this very special organization, I’ve decided to step down as the Director of Raise Your Hand. Over the next few months I will transition my role to Jennie Biggs and Joy Clendenning, who will serve as interim co-directors starting in early September while our Board searches for a full-time Director. The decision to move on has been a long, grueling process. In the end, for a number of reasons not limited to any single issue, my family has decided to make a change and move to Evanston where my husband grew up and where our son will go to high school.

Although I won’t be leading our work on the CPS side of things any longer, I will still be the co-director of RYHAction with Cassie Creswell working on statewide legislative issues. I will continue to work with this group to push for equity in education for all the students of Illinois -- including those in CPS -- who often are not getting the supports and resources they need to thrive. I look forward to doing that work alongside so many of you who have spent countless hours as volunteer advocates for all children.

I can’t express how much the seven years leading RYH have meant to me -- the connections many of us have formed, the space that we have created to work on issues impacting the whole and not just our individual children -- a place of shared values where we have found one another and worked day after day to push for something better . I have never met a more dedicated, persistent, caring group of people, and I will always be indebted to those of you who have given your time and effort to be part of our work. I have also been amazed at the hard work and heart of CPS teachers, school administrators and students who do incredible work despite the daily challenges they often endure.

When RYH started, I thought the work was only about tending to the immediate needs and winning one-off campaigns. I soon realized that changing attitudes and bringing people on board to work for the collective good was equally important. All of you have helped to do that, while also focusing on specific campaigns such as winning the first TIF surplus the city has ever declared in 2010, bringing attention to the need for recess for CPS students in 2011, fighting for extra staffing when the school day was extended, helping stop the elimination of class size rules for special education at the state level, leading an opt-out movement to bring attention to the misuse and overuse of standardized testing, and so much more. The dedication of our parent members is essential for the organization to continue to grow and evolve, and I hope you will continue to support and be part of the important work of RYH. .

Again, I won’t be disappearing, but will be down the road in Evanston in a different capacity working on the statewide issues via RYHA. Thank you for being part of this journey with me for the past seven years. I hope you will continue to make an impact by supporting Jennie and Joy and all the volunteers at RYH who work tirelessly to keep you informed on policies and provide methods to take action. We’ll be having a pass-the-torch party in June and we’ll keep you posted on dates. Thank you again for allowing me to do this important work with you.