The parents of students at Lincoln Elementary, 1111 S. Grove Ave., have launched a Change.org petition in the wake of the mid-year departure of the school’s latest principal. 

Last month, D97 Supt. Carol Kelley notified Lincoln families that Laura Zaniolo, the school’s principal since July 2019, announced her resignation “due to personal reasons.” Lincoln has had two permanent principals and one interim principal since 2017.

According to the petition, which had garnered 376 signatories as of Feb. 24, the instability at the principal position “harms all students, especially those with special needs” and “is a symptom of a larger district problem.” 

Lisa Peloquin, a Lincoln parent, created the petition after Zanilio announced her resignation. Her petition urges the district and the D97 school board to adopt four recommendations from families, which include hiring more staffers in proportion to the school’s student population. 

The petition also recommends that the district conduct exit interviews with former principals to identify the school’s “missed opportunities to assist [them] in being successful,” establish performance goals for Kelley that are related to principal retention and conduct a “comprehensive analysis of the problems Lincoln faces and how best to address them.” 

In an interview in January, Kelley said she had created a “comprehensive support plan” that includes “a thorough and transparent review of our hiring practices before making any decisions regarding the 2020-21 school year.” She added that Oak Park equity consultant Reesheda Graham Washington had agreed to work with the district “from a critical, objective lens” during a comprehensive review of its “hiring, on-boarding and induction processes for new principals.” 

During an interview last week, Peloquin, who was among a group of parents who spoke during public comment at a regular school board meeting on Feb. 4, said that she and other parents aren’t satisfied with those measures. 

“I think the superintendent has done things she thinks will support principals, but at this point, it’s clear that those supports aren’t what the principals need,” she said. 

Kenneth Lehman, the parent of a second grader at Lincoln, told board members on Feb. 4 that “I don’t get a sense that the administration is as heavily invested in that process as the parents and the teachers are. I think that there is a very strong desire on the part of both faculty members and parents at Lincoln to do something productive and make a difference.” 

When reached for comment on Feb. 24, Amanda Siegfried, D97’s communications director, said the “situation at Lincoln is a top priority for the district, and we are fully committed to addressing the community’s concerns.

“Since Ms. Zaniolo resigned four weeks ago, the district has been working diligently to establish a strong system of support for Lincoln students and staff through the remainder of the year, while simultaneously beginning an after action review that will help us improve the hiring, on-boarding and induction/mentoring process of the next Lincoln principal. Community feedback and engagement has been and will continue to be a critical component of this process.”

The district had originally scheduled a town hall meeting on Feb. 19 to “to give the community the opportunity to share thoughts and perspectives that will help us reflect as an organization and plan our next steps,” according to Kelley. 

That meeting has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at Lincoln School. Graham Washington will facilitate. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com  

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