District 97 will hold a nationwide search for principals at Longfellow and Holmes elementary schools, Superintendent Constance Collins said last Wednesday.

Both schools have interim principals this year-Angela Dolezal at Longfellow, 715 S. Highland Ave., and Gail Durckel at Holmes, 501 N. Kenilworth Ave.

Collins made the announcement at the Dist. 97 Board of Education’s regular meeting. She said the district will hold a national search and screening process in the next couple of weeks, and hoped to have principals hired by May.

Durckel was hired last June, replacing Laurel Muhammad, who retired. She was a school administrator in Vermont before coming to Dist. 97. Dolezal, who previously taught at Holmes, was hired last August. She also served as a Holmes building assistant and co-president of the Oak Park Teacher’s Association union. She replaced Thea Perkins, who took an administrative position with Maywood public schools.

Collins said both interim principals have expressed interest in interviewing for the job and will participate in the process. She said she’s heard positive feedback about both principals.

“They are both strong candidates. They are committed to their staff and parent community, and they both believe individually that they are the right person for the job,” said Collins, noting that a team comprised of parents and staff from each school will conduct interviews with initial candidates. Trish Carlson, Dist. 97’s director of human resources and staff development, said the district expected 8-10 applicants. After the school teams have conducted their interviews, 2-3 names will be submitted to Collins, who will make the selection.

“We will, hopefully, be able to move forward quickly and come back to the board in a timely manner,” Collins said.

In recent years, the district has hired interim principals without conducting a national search.

Nimisha Kumar was hired last April as principal of Mann Elementary School, 921 N. Kenilworth Ave., after serving as interim principal the previous year. Interim principals are hired on a one-year contract.

Parents expressed support publicly for both principals at last Wednesday’s board meeting.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Kathy Sullivan, parent of a third-grader at Longfellow, said she was initially in favor of a search but likes the work Dolezal has done.

Sullivan said she’s most impressed with Dolezal’s open-door policy to parents.

“I have noticed that not only is she an effective listener, but she’s very responsive, fair, decisive and responsible in regards to the decisions she makes for the children of our school,” said Sullivan.

Longfellow parent and PTO Co-President Teri Svehla said she was impressed with how Dolezal worked with parents and teachers as a new school principal.

“I feel it would be a real shame for us not to be able to have her here next year,” said Svehla.

Holmes parent Carollina Song, expressed support for Durckel, specifically how she handled the school having to split three first grade classes into four due to high enrollment this year.

“I was really impressed with how masterfully Dr. Durckel handled a very complicated situation,” said Song, co-president of the school’s PTO, noting that she was speaking as a parent. “She did an incredible job of balancing the need to make parents feel like a part of the process with making it clear that there were some things that were not in their control.”

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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