Kenwood Elementary principal leaves job mid-year

Kenwood Elementary principal leaves job mid-year

CHAMPAIGN — The principal at Kenwood Elementary School has left her position mid-semester, and a district administrator will take her place for the remainder of the school year.

Lisa Geren's last day was Feb. 28, according to parents and staff members. They were not officially notified of the move until last week.

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Superintendent Judy Wiegand said Geren stepped down for personal reasons and will be submitting her resignation effective June 30. Geren will continue to be paid through that date, said Ken Kleber, executive director of human resources for the district.

Champaign school principals and administrators, except for Wiegand, are on single-year contracts, Kleber said. Geren has been Kenwood's principal since July 2009 and earns $99,500 annually, he said.

Trevor Nadrozny, director of elementary teaching and learning and former principal at Westview Elementary School, will fill in for the rest of the academic year, working with Kenwood's assistant principal, Jessica Pitcher.

Geren said Friday that the timing "just worked best for me," declining to elaborate.

She said she is looking forward to completing her doctorate at Illinois State University.

Some parents and staff questioned Geren's timing, just before students took the Illinois State Achievement Tests the week of March 3-7.

"It was really sudden for all of us," said PTA President Terra Larsen. "It's not the best timing, but we understand and support her."

Wiegand and Nadrozny met with the staff a week ago, and Wiegand briefed parents at the Kenwood PTA meeting that night. They were told that Geren had to take emergency personal leave.

"They were kind of hoping that she could at least come back to finish out this year, and it didn't happen that way," Larsen said.

Larsen said interviews for Geren's successor will be held later this semester, when school resumes after a three-week intersession that started Friday. Kenwood is on a year-round schedule, known as a balanced calendar.

Parents were unhappy last fall when the district announced it might switch Kenwood to a reg- ular calendar for two years while the building is renovated, to allow more time for summer construction. Parents said they should have been consulted first; the district agreed to further talks.

Wiegand said Geren's departure was not related to the calendar issue. Geren backed the parents in that dispute, Larsen noted.

"I was right there with the teachers and parents, because it was a lifestyle change. I think it was very important that they were heard before any decision was made," Geren said.

Under Geren's tenure, the school adopted a mission with a new emphasis on technology, literacy and community. Teachers trained last summer with UI computer-science experts, and every student now learns programming from a young age. With help from a grant, the school has also sponsored weeklong computer workshops for parents.

Geren also adopted uniforms at Kenwood and was known for cooking breakfast for students during ISAT week. She said the school has "wonderful staff and parents."

"We had a really good relationship. We're collaborative. I love them and I think it's mutual," she said.

Larsen said she didn't know of any major problems between Geren and the staff or parents.

"It was really very shocking news to us," she said.

Before coming to Kenwood, Geren was an assistant principal at Centennial High school, principal at Danville's Schlarman High School and a teacher Northeast Elementary School in Danville.

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Kremlin Watcher wrote on March 18, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Can someone explain why Ms. Geren will continue to be paid for four more months? 

Ozwald wrote on March 18, 2014 at 7:03 pm

I'll Second that.