WEST RIDGE — Mather High School's future should have stronger connections with community members, more engaged parents and students as prepared as possible for post-high school life if all goes as new Principal Peter Auffant hopes.
"I think I've really sharpened my eye into what it takes to run a thriving community school," Auffant said.
When the job at Mather opened up, he said he "jumped at the chance" to lead in what was "a strong community already."
Auffant, a 2016-17 Chicago Principal Fellows winner, was voted in late last week by Mather's Local School Council to lead the West Ridge high school, replacing Chris Jones, a long-time Mather leader who departed in October for a job in another state.
He takes his new position Monday, leaving his role as principal at Shields Middle School in Brighton Park that he helped open in 2012. Auffant is also fluent in Spanish.
Usman Narmawala, chairman of the LSC, said one of the attributes that made Auffant stand out among other candidates was his ability to get parents more active in the school and students' lives — a trend currently lacking at Mather with many households having two working parents.
"He is involved with the community, with the parents, with the students, with the community members," Narmawala said, adding those traits were what the LSC was searching for.
Auffant said he's up for the challenge.
His goal now is to build trust and rapport among staff and students at the school as he becomes more familiar with the West Ridge community.
A resident of Edgebrook, Auffant said he'll need to get acclimated to his new surroundings but got his start in teaching at nearby Sullivan High School in Rogers Park.
Now at Mather, Auffant said he wants to help propel students into the next level of life and is excited to get to know his new community.
The neighborhood high school has climbed to CPS' second-highest academic rating over the last three years, providing an opportunity for Auffant to "celebrate" and "leverage" the school's strengths, while identifying what doesn't work.
Coupling that with more involvement from parents and the outside community, Mather could continue to achieve its potential, Auffant said.
"I want Mather to be the neighborhood school of choice," Auffant said. "I think it deserves to be a model community school."