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District 97 Appoints Principals for Holmes, Lincoln Elementary Schools

Board of Education approves Tamera Phillips and Marianne Rehfield as new school leaders; José Gamiño named associate principal for Julian Middle School.

District 97 Superintendent Ushma Shah and the Board of Education are pleased to announce the appointment of three school leaders for the 2024-25 school year:

  • Tamera Phillips will serve as the principal of Holmes Elementary School. She replaces Dr. Christine Zelaya, who was named the senior director of human resources for District 97 earlier this year.
  • Marianne Rehfield will serve as the principal of Lincoln Elementary School. Rehfield, who is currently the assistant principal at Holmes, replaces Ryan Gordon, who is leaving to take on a new principal position in Homewood School District 153.
  • José Gamiño will serve as the associate principal for climate, culture and athletics/clubs at Julian Middle School. He replaces Mekita Whitfield, who resigned in April.

“We are excited for Tamera, Marianne and José to join Team D97. Each leader brings expertise and experiences that will be part of our district’s journey to universal student success,” District 97 Superintendent Ushma Shah said. “As we welcome the new leaders to their roles, we are also being deliberate to plan for their smooth transition with key mentors and colleagues who know the culture of our individual school communities.”

The new elementary principals were selected after a thorough search process engaging Holmes and Lincoln families, school staff, and school and district administrators. The process incorporated listening sessions and surveys to develop principal profiles, followed by several rounds of interviews with staff and family teams. We would like to thank staff and community members who contributed their time and thoughtful feedback over the past few months. In future principal searches, we will also be looking to increase the voice and participation of students in the process.

Biographies of the new administrators are included below. The appointments were approved during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on June 11.

Tamera Phillips - Principal of Holmes Elementary School

Pictured: Tamera Phillips, newly appointed principal of Holmes Elementary SchoolPhillips comes to District 97 with extensive experience serving diverse student populations as an elementary teacher and administrator. Most recently, she has served as the principal of Lincoln Elementary School in Waterloo, Iowa, where she has focused on closing opportunity gaps, improving student proficiency, and transforming school culture. She began her career as a first-grade teacher in Missouri, and spent 12 years as a teacher and two years as an instructional coach before becoming a school administrator.

“Throughout the search process, the Holmes community called for an experienced, collaborative leader who will prioritize strong communication and inclusive community-building,” said Patrick Robinson, assistant superintendent of elementary schools. “In her previous roles, Tamera has not only demonstrated strong instructional leadership, but also the ability to create a positive school culture and foster relationships with students, staff, and families from diverse backgrounds.”

Phillips holds an associate’s degree in business management from Park University, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Graceland University, a master’s degree in teaching from Webster University, and a master’s degree in school leadership from Baker University. She also earned an advanced studies certificate in principalship from the University of Northern Iowa. She has two adult sons and two grandchildren, and is getting married this August.

“I am deeply honored and excited to be named the principal of Holmes Elementary School,” Phillips said. “I am committed to creating an inclusive and empowering learning environment where every child feels valued, challenged, and supported to reach their full potential. I look forward to collaborating and building relationships with the staff, students, and families to ensure that each member of our community thrives.”

Staff and families will be provided opportunities to connect with Phillips beginning this summer.

Additionally, while the district plans to post the school’s assistant principal position, veteran District 97 administrator John Hodge, who served the past eight months as Holmes’ interim principal, will work with Assistant Superintendent Robinson to provide administrative support during Phillips’ transition.

Marianne Rehfield - Principal of Lincoln Elementary School

Pictured: Marianne Rehfield, newly appointed principal of Lincoln Elementary SchoolMarianne Rehfield has been a dedicated educator and leader in District 97 for 16 years. She taught at Holmes for 10 years and served four years as an instructional coach before becoming the school’s assistant principal in 2022. Throughout her tenure, she has played an important role in leading staff in professional development and school improvement planning.

“The Lincoln community voiced that it was seeking a supportive and engaging leader who will uphold its core values and traditions,” Robinson said. “Marianne has grown tremendously as an educator and administrator during her time in District 97. She has a deep understanding of core instructional practices, and we believe her expertise will be an asset as we work together to support the unique programming needs of Lincoln, including our Spanish Immersion Program.”

Rehfield joins longtime Lincoln Assistant Principal Paula Hughes, who will be supporting her transition to the school this summer.

Rehfield has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Saint Mary’s College, as well as two master’s degrees from Concordia University—one in curriculum and instruction and the other in the school’s Principal Preparation Program. She acknowledged the Holmes community for preparing her for the next chapter of her educational career. She and her husband, Chris, have three children: Maddie, MJ and Conor.

“My time at Holmes has equipped me with the tools, knowledge, and resources to be a collaborative and relationship-driven principal,” Rehfield said. “I am honored to serve as the next leader of Lincoln Elementary School and to serve alongside Paula and the dedicated and respected staff. I’m excited to welcome our Lincoln Lions back to school in August, look forward to seeing you ‘Up at Lincoln’ soon.”

José Gamiño - Julian Middle School Associate Principal of Climate, Culture and Athletics/Clubs 

Pictured: Jose Gamino, newly appointed associate principal of Julian Middle SchoolJosé Gamiño joins District 97 with more than 20 years of experience in education, both as a teacher and teacher leader. Most recently, he served as an English teacher at Mechinas Ner Naftali High School in Lincolnwood. Prior to this role, Gamiño dedicated over two decades to students in Chicago Public Schools, where he taught social studies and led his colleagues as social studies department chair.

Throughout his career, Gamiño has taken on multiple leadership roles, including AVID coordinator and evening school/credit recovery coordinator, and contributed to the Instructional Leadership Team and various school-wide initiatives like MTSS, PBIS, and RTI, to support student success and foster an inclusive school culture.

Gamiño holds a bachelor’s degree in education from DePaul University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the American College of Education.

“José will make a great addition to our Jayhawk family and D97 middle school team,” said Assistant Superintendent of Middle Schools Dr. Luis Fernando De León. “He brings a wealth of experience, dedication, and a deep commitment to fostering a positive and inclusive school environment for all students. We are thrilled to welcome him, and we look forward to the impact he will make on our school culture, climate and community.”