District 97 announces hiring of new principals for Oak Park middle schools


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

The District 97 school board on Tuesday hired Mike Michowski and Todd Fitzgerald as the next principals for Brooks and Julian middle schools, respectively.

The board voted unanimously for both candidates during their regular meeting Tuesday evening. Both will officially start in on July 1. Fitzgerald, 39, comes from S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield where he serves as principal. Fitzgerald was not present at Tuesday's meeting. Michowski was present. He has been at Prarie Hill School in Beloit for 13 years. Fitzgerald and Michowski will each earn a one-year salary of $120,000.

D97 Supt. Albert Roberts praised both candidates, describing each as "good listeners and collaborative leaders," qualities each school community was looking for, and that would "lead our middle schools to a new future."

Michkowski said he has longed admired Oak Parkfrom afar; he referred to it as a "long-distance love affair." He also worked at School District 170 in Chicago Heights as principal and before that behavioral coordinator. Fitzgerald was a social studies teacher Hauser Junior High in Riverside and at Westmont Junior High Schoolas an assistant principal before joining Gross Middle School.

Peter Barber, president of the D97 school board, praised the new principals and said the board was "very impressed" with both.

The board Tuesday also hired a new assistant superintendent for human resources. Joanne Schochat takes over for Trish Carlson, who is retiring June 30. Schochat comes from Troy School District 30-C, holding the positions of director of special programs and assistant superintendent for HR. She also held to title of general counsel for theTroy school district in addition to overseeing its HR department. She'll also serve as general counsel for D97 on $150,000 salary. The three new hires were signed to two-year contracts.   

Official press release from District 97 here.

Reader Comments

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Brad from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2012 7:22 PM

The 1st mistake the district made was the ousting of Flora Green who by far out performed any principal ever to grace the Emerson/Brooks/Hawthorne/Julian children's lives. And now another huge mistake getting rid of yet another great principal at Brooks. Stop placing bthe blame on poeple who greatly care for the students here but are locked into doing things under strict policies of overpaid superintendants.

a member of the 2nd sex  

Posted: May 13th, 2012 12:43 PM

Pleeeze - as a former teacher and a parent I can tell you that kids of all ages will respect and work with adults of either gender when those adults set firm boundaries AND treat the kids with respect.


Posted: May 9th, 2012 3:34 PM

$120,000 per year for a middle school principal doesn't seem out of line. These are professionals & should be paid accordingly - as long as they do a good job. People who complain about any public employee making over $100,000 sound like tea party members who don't think any public employee should be paid more than $50,000. We can't go back to the days when educators were all women & were paid miserly wages!

Dooper 58 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 12:56 PM

I don't mind saying this, but I'm glad that D97 hired two men for these jobs. Not saying women aren't qualified for it (I've worked for many great women in my career), I'm simply of the opinion that kids at that age, especially boys & even more so minority boys, need solid male role models. But knowing at trusting the D97 Board, I know that they picked the 2 best candidates, period. We in OP tend to overrate ourselves & diversity when it comes to hiring here. Good work, & good luck, men!


Posted: May 9th, 2012 12:21 PM

At least part of the reason these principals earn more than the elementary principals is because the middle schools are larger and offer more extra-curricular programming. It's a bigger job.

Sally Laurent-Muehleisen from Oak Park  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 11:42 AM

As someone who was at the school board meeting last night, I can tell you that Ms. Schochat has a law degree (and has experience as a practicing lawyer FOR school districts), so her additional title of general counsel is not only appropriate, but is going to save the district money since she can handle not only the job that Ms. Carlson did so well, but some additional legal duties as well. This is a real win-win for D97 to get someone who can fill two roles.

Been around for a while  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 11:26 AM

HR and "general counsel"??? since when did D97 have a "general counsel". Is this just an inflated title that she insisted upon because she had it before or is there a job description that goes along with it???

Julian Parent  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 11:19 AM

Neither of these middle school principals are from communities that are similar to Oak Park in size, community or diversity. The schools that they are coming from are much smaller than either middle school and seem very Mayberryish. I hope that these guys are ready for prime time.

Mel Rose from Oak Park  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 11:16 AM

As the parent of two children who went through Brooks Middle School I can tell you the job of being middle school principal is stressful every single day...they get it from all sides, and it is a tough job that starts early and often ends late with night meetings. I welcome them to our schools and wish them the best!


Posted: May 9th, 2012 10:35 AM

Whay does the guy down the hall make more than me? Maybe because he's working and I am farting around here. These overpaid admininstrators, we need to low ball them, after all, its only our kids that they are responsble for. Lets get some nannnies or someone we can get for $30K.


Posted: May 9th, 2012 10:18 AM

Why are these two new guys making more than just about all the other principals in the district?

T.J. from OP  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 8:37 AM

Too much money for these guys. I could get the same "talent" for much less.

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