Angela Dolezal, the principal at Longfellow School in Oak Park, is resigning at the end of the school year to take a job as the curriculum director in Riverside Elementary School District 96.
Dolezal is in her 13th year as principal at Longfellow and is in her 15th year as an employee of Oak Park School District 97. Dolezal taught for two years at Holmes School before becoming the principal at Longfellow.
Parents at Longfellow say that she will be missed.
“I have mixed feelings about Principal Dolezal leaving Longfellow,” said Marta Ikegami, the co-president of the Longfellow Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and the mother of a fifth-grader at Longfellow, in an email. “Although I am happy she is taking a well deserved better position at Riverside, I am also sad to see her leave. She is a positive influence in our students’ lives and she really looks out for each student’s best interest.”
Ikegami said that Dolezal has fostered both inclusion and student achievement.
“With her support, four-and-a-half years ago, the first PTO diversity committee was created in D97,” Ikegami wrote. “This committee’s work has played an important role addressing some of the most urgent issues of our times in Oak Park, thanks to her support.”
Dolezal said it will be hard to leave Longfellow School, where her daughter is a fifth-grader this year and her son attends kindergarten. In fact, it has been hard to explain to her son why she will be leaving his school.
“He’s struggling just a little bit, but he’ll be good,” Dolezal said. “My daughter has told him it’s actually going to be better for him.”
Dolezal said that knowing that she will remain involved with Longfellow as a parent makes leaving a little easier.
“I have developed so many close relationships with families throughout our school, so it’s hard to know I’m leaving that,” Dolezal said. “I feel fortunate and blessed that I don’t have to completely let go of Longfellow, so it is definitely mixed emotions. These next few months will be hard but they will also be filled with a lot of joy and excitement as well.”
Dolezal said she is proud of a 30-minute daily reading enrichment/intervention time that she instituted in her second year at Longfellow.
“We’ve seen growth in our students’ abilities to read fluently and comprehend what they’re reading,” Dolezal said.
District 97 Superintendent Carol Kelly called Dolezal “an incredible teacher, administrator and leader” during her 15 years in District 97.
“Her hard work, professionalism and passion for learning have earned her the respect and admiration of her colleagues, and her commitment to education and tireless advocacy for children have helped her forge strong and lasting relationships with her students and families at Longfellow,” Kelley said in a letter to parents.
Kelly said that plans to replace Dolezal have begun and will involve a thorough review of all options.
Two members of the Riverside school board, the board president and the chairwoman of the board’s education committee, voted against hiring Dolezal. They pointed to a pattern of declining scores on the state mandated PARCC exam for District 97 students in recent years compared to a steady rise in PARCC scores in District 96, saying they were uncomfortable hiring someone coming from a district with declining test scores.
One factor in the declining test scores in District 97 could be the increasing number of Oak Park students who have opted out of taking the PARCC exam in recent years. Last year about 88 percent of District 97 students took the PARCC exam, compared to 98 percent of students in District 96 who took the PARCC.
PARCC scores at Longfellow School have exceeded the District 97 averages in recent years.
Dolezal will be replacing another Oak Park resident, Merryl Brownlow, who is leaving District 96 after four years as an assistant superintendent to become a superintendent in a small school district in Palos Heights.
The superintendent of District 96, Martha Ryan-Toye, who recommended hiring Dolezal, also lives in Oak Park.
Longfellow parent Kim Hefner, who happens to be principal of Hollywood School in Brookfield, which is in District 96, says that Dolezal has been an excellent principal.
“She is steadfast in putting children first,” Hefner said. “She’s been innovative in the way that she’s worked with her staff to support all learners. She has done some interesting structuring to be able to be able to challenge and support all the different abilities.”
This story has been changed to correct the percentage of students in Oak Park District 97 who opted to take the PARCC exam in 2018.