D97 hires three new building principals

Board appoints top personnel at Lincoln, Beye and Mann

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

During a virtual meeting held March 17, the District 97 school board approved the appointment of three building principals for the 2020-21 school year. Due to the developing COVID-19 pandemic, the board conducted the meeting by way of Zoom, a videoconferencing service. The public was allowed to join the meting by using a dial-in access code.  

The school board voted unanimously to appoint Jennifer Schemidt to be the new principal of Beye Elementary School and for Hussain Ali to take the helm at Mann Elementary School. The board voted 5-2 for Ryan Gordon to serve as co-interim principal at Lincoln Elementary School. 

At Beye, Schemidt will replace Jonathan Ellwanger, who is retiring in June after more than 30 years at the school. According to a D97 statement released Wednesday, Schemidt comes to D97 from Maplebrook Elementary School, part of the 14-school Naperville Community Unit School District 203. She was an assistant principal for three years, as well as a co-director of the school district's summer program. Schemidt worked 14 years as a school psychologist before becoming an administrator. 

She has a master's degree in educational psychology from National-Louis University and a master's degree in educational administration from Northern Illinois University. Schemidt obtained her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Evansville and a degree in school psychology from the University of Detroit-Mercy, district officials stated. 

Ali, who will replace Cheryl Sullivan as principal, was a student support specialist at Beye from 2015 to 2017, and an interim assistant principal at Longfellow, before leaving to take the principal position at Poupard Elementary School in Grosse Pointe, Mich. Ali started teaching first- and fourth-graders in Michigan's public schools, district officials stated. 

Ali has a bachelor's degree in education from Western Michigan University. He also has a master's degree in education administration from Michigan State University, D97 officials stated. 

Ryan Gordon, who will team with Sheila Carter as co-principal at Lincoln, has been an assistant principal at Julian Middle School since 2018. 

Before coming to D97, Gordon was a Chicago Public Schools teacher for 11 years. She obtained her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her master's degree in educational administration from Concordia University, D97 officials stated. 

The district recommended that Gordon stay at Lincoln until the 2020-21 academic year. Her contract "will be brought to the school board at a future meeting," D97 officials said. 

"Over the last six weeks, we have been engaged in an after-action review in order to improve the recruitment, hiring and mentoring process for the leadership at Lincoln," stated D97 Supt. Carol Kelley. "We have also heard from staff and families who are seeking stability and a strong system of support for the school. During the interview process, Ryan Gordon emerged as a dynamic and capable administrator who understands that trust and collaborative working relationships are part of the foundation of every school community." 

District 97 officials stated that the principal selections at Beye and Mann took place after a "rigorous recruitment process" that involved surveys and focus groups for parents and staff members, interviews with district administrators, screening interviews and site visits with Supt. Kelley, among other measures.  

"I am deeply grateful to all the parents and staff members who were involved in our principal searches over the past several months—from those who helped us build our candidate profiles to the representatives who served on our interview teams," Kelley said. "After an extensive search and interview process, we are thrilled to announce three exceptional administrators who will be leading Beye, Mann and Lincoln next year."

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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