The Oak Lawn Community High School leadership team strengthened itself with the promotion of two internal candidates to the position of principal and assistant principal for the new school year.
The new principal, Dr. Jeana Lietz began implementing new ideas by greeting incoming freshman with a welcome of her own called the “Welcome Wagon.” This is a program consisting of staff and administrators personally visiting incoming freshmen to help make them feel a part of the OLCHS community before they ever step on campus. According to school district officials, the idea has been received with smiles and good feelings.
“Years ago while researching my dissertation about Fred Rogers, I heard about an elementary principal who went and visited her incoming kindergarteners to give them a friendly face when they came to school in the fall,” Lietz said. “I thought that the transition to high school is another, perhaps even scarier, transition for students and parents. The Welcome Wagon allows us to put some of those fears to rest, while sending the message that we value our students and parents.
“I hope that this will also lead into high parental involvement throughout the school year. It has been fun to visit houses and meet some of our students. And the staff has truly stepped up to help us visit all 425 houses.”
Lietz began as assistant principal at OLCHS in 2011 and finished her fifth year at the school before getting the new job as principal for the 2016-17 school year. Dr. Michael Riordan vacated the dual position to solely focus on his job as superintendent.
“I am excited and truly grateful to become principal at a school like Oak Lawn,” she said. “I want people (staff, students, parents and community members) to know that my door (and phone) is always open. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without their help.”
Lietz’s ideas for the school do not simply stop at the Welcome Wagon though. She has more in store for Spartan Nation.
“I look forward to expanding on the academic excellence our students are achieving,” she said. “One of my priorities is student, parent, and community engagement. I want OLCHS to become a place where everyone wants to be here, and the school becomes the hub of the community. I also want students to become more active in the school and take leadership roles in shaping policies and rules here at OLCHS. This should be a place for students, made by students, where the adults help facilitate their growth and learning.”
Also moving into a new position this year is Lauren May who has assumed the role of Assistant Principal. May has been part of the Spartan faculty since 2000, and she has served as English Teacher, Teacher Mentor, leader of countless committees, Dean of Students, Division Chair and now moves into her most challenging role yet as Assistant Principal. But her curriculum background and focus on data-driven ideologies for teaching certainly should pay dividends in this new position.
“I look forward to serving the students, parents, and staff of Oak Lawn in this new capacity,” May said. “Our school is lucky to have a distinguished and dedicated staff possessing not only vast content knowledge, but also the skill to make that learning accessible to the students we serve.
“OLCHS has made great strides over the last few years as we’ve focused on identifying the important knowledge and skills that students need as well as how to best develop and measure that learning. I am very excited to be able to continue our progress.”
There is no doubt May will help to advance this process in her new role. As Division Chair she was instrumental in using data to measure growth of students and then leading teachers to use that data to improve teaching methods in order to best reach the students. Maybe her greatest asset has been her ability to allow staff members to use their own teaching styles and personalities to enhance the data-driven methods.
“OLCHS offers incredible opportunities for all students through our core academic programs as well as our Advanced Placement and dual credit offerings,” she said. “It’s important that we continue to find pathways for all students to have equitable access to rigorous and challenging coursework. Building consensus about how to best create a system that works for all students will be a major undertaking.”
The product of this vision and energy should be continued success by the student body and faculty at OLCHS for years to come.
May and Lietz are now part of a five member administrator team led by School Superintendent Dr. Michael Riordan, who also worked his way up through various positions to become Superintendent.