An Update for the Lincoln Community

First, I want to thank everyone who has reached out to the District 97 administration and board of education regarding the resignation of Lincoln Principal Laura Zaniolo on Wednesday. We truly value your feedback and questions, which reflect a deep level of support and concern for our students, staff and the Lincoln community as a whole.

Ms. Zaniolo’s decision to resign was unexpected and due to personal reasons. Although we understand the community’s desire for more information, we must respect her privacy. We wish her nothing but the best moving forward.

As we shared Wednesday, our immediate priority was to put together a comprehensive plan to support students and staff at Lincoln School. This includes:

  • A recommendation to the board of education that Sheila Carter and Cathy Hamilton remain at Lincoln School through the end of the current school year. Ms. Carter and Ms. Hamilton, along with Assistant Principal Paula Hughes, are an exceptional leadership team with deep connections to the Oak Park community. We are confident that they will provide the leadership and stability needed during this period of transition.
  • On-site support and resources from district-level administrators. Our team at central office is fully committed to working with building leaders, staff and families to ensure that every student and staff member at Lincoln has what they need to be successful. This includes additional support from our teacher mentor, Megan Stewart, and our elementary climate and culture coach, Maggie Cahill, who will provide ongoing assistance to Lincoln staff. The district’s director of communications, Amanda Siegfried, will be working with building leadership and staff to maintain consistent communication with families throughout the school year.
  • Conducting restorative circles for staff and families. The Lincoln PTO has already worked with the Oak Park E-Team to plan their first community “Come Together” event, which will be held in the school cafeteria on Monday, Feb. 3, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. We fully support this initiative and will collaborate with the school leadership team, PTO and community partners going forward to plan additional events.

Furthermore, I want to assure you that we hear your concerns regarding the leadership changes at Lincoln over the past few years, and we share in your disappointment and frustration. Lincoln is an exemplary school with outstanding students, staff and families, and we know that our current circumstances are not acceptable long term. As an administrative team, we are committed to conducting a thorough and transparent review of our hiring practices before making any decisions regarding the 2020-21 school year. This process will include:

  • A town hall meeting with students, staff and families on Wednesday, Feb. 19. District 97 will host a town hall meeting from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Lincoln School to give the community the opportunity to share thoughts and perspectives that will help us reflect as an organization and plan our next steps.
  • Conducting an after action review of our hiring, on-boarding, and induction processes for new principals. The administration will participate in a full review of our past hiring practices in order to capture lessons learned, with the end-goal of improving the recruitment, hiring, on-boarding and induction/mentoring process of the next Lincoln principal.

Finally, I want to acknowledge our incredible staff at Lincoln for their talent, strength and commitment to our students. I spoke to them Wednesday and they were united in wanting to move forward without missing a beat. We are grateful to have them supporting our students, who remain at the center of everything we do.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our students and staff, which is critical to the success of Lincoln School. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us by visiting our Let’s Talk page.


Dr. Carol Kelley