Joliet school district works to diversify staff
With just about a month left until classes resume this fall, Joliet Public Schools District 86 expects its efforts to diversity certified staff will pay off by welcoming five new principals to its buildings.
“We hire the best qualified candidates for our teaching vacancies,” said Dr. Theresa Rouse, superintendent of Joliet Public Schools District 86. “We continue to work with local universities, including Lewis University and the University of St. Francis, to diversify the candidate pool for the future.”
Vernecia Gee-Davis, a familiar face to Joliet Public Schools District 86, is slated to return to Pershing Elementary School after serving as principal at Zenon Sykuta Elementary School in Country Club Hills.
Veteran principal from Central Middle School in Evergreen Park, Rita Sparks, will take the reins this fall as the new principal at Gompers Junior High School.
Laura Hodge was promoted from assistant principal at Dirksen Junior High School to principal at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.
Melissa Mendoza-Thompson, a principal at the ECHO MacArthur Early Childhood Center in South Holland for the past seven years, was named principal at Marycrest Early Childhood Center.
Krystal Rasmussen, an assistant principal at Plano High School for the past three years, will join the Joliet Public Schools District 86 administrative team as the new principal at Lynne Thigpen Elementary School.
Data shows that certified staff last year tallies as 74 percent Caucasian, 13 percent Hispanic, 12 percent African-American, and 1 percent Other.
A breakdown of the District’s student body last year is 60 percent Hispanic, 24 percent African-American, 11 percent Caucasian, 4 percent Multiracial, and 1 percent Other.
The leadership changes have resulted in response to retirement vacancies.
“We are pleased to add these individuals to our leadership team,” Rouse said.
Hodge said it is an honor to be named principal at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.
“District 86 has a strong commitment to ensuring success for every student, and I am entirely dedicated to this work,” she said.
Sparks said she is excited to work with staff, students and family to make the school year successful and meaningful for all.
“’What's best for students’ is a question we will continue to ask each other all year long,” she said. “All decisions will be madewith this in mind as we achieve academic success and social emotional growth.”
Gee-Davis hopes to lead by example.
“To prepare myself for the evolving demands of serving as a principal, I continue to attend workshops, conferences, and take classes that will better prepare me,” she said. “As principal, I must be the lead learner and continue to focus on my professional growth.”
“I am continually pushing myself, increasing my knowledge, and partnering with others to ensure that I am continually improving,” she said. “Every day I reflect by asking was I better for students today than I was yesterday. I also try to inspire myself and others to engage in practices that meet the needs of every student every day.”
Mendoza-Thompson said it is a privilege to be chosen to serve the Joliet community.
“I am very child-centered, and believe in a servant leadership philosophy,” she said. “It is extremely evident in all my interactions with District 86 leadership that they share this philosophy. Joliet 86 embodies the philosophy ‘for the children’ and so do I.”