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Interim principal is chosen for Central Middle School in Evergreen Park

By Joe Boyle

The search for a new principal at Central Middle School in Evergreen Park has been wide and extensive.

Dr. Robert Machak, superintendent of School District 124, had been going over a lengthy list of candidates with the assistance of Kathleen Prado, director of curriculum and instruction for the district, to find the right fit at Central Middle School, 9400 S. Sawyer Ave.

After considering 40 applications, Machak, with members of the District 124 Board, came to an ultimate conclusion.

And that choice was Prado, who will serve as the interim principal of Central Middle School during the 2019-20 school year, providing the administration an opportunity to conduct a thorough search for a long-term principal.

Prado’s appointment was officially approved at the July 17 Board of Education meeting, along with the promotion of CMS Multi-Tiered System of Support Coach Jenny Daly, who will become one of two assistant principals at the school.

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Kathleen Prado

District 124 plans to post the principal vacancy for the 2020-21 school year this fall, according to Machak.

“The children, teachers, and parents in this district deserve an outstanding middle school principal,” Machak said. “I want to be sure that we put ourselves in the best position to find that person.”

Machak said that in the interim and beyond that it was important to hire a principal with middle-school experience.

“We interviewed eight people and they were very nice people, but we did not find what we were looking for,” Machak said during the recent board meeting. “We decided we need to do a more thorough search and actually visit the school districts the candidates are (in currently) to get a better idea of about them. We need to talk to colleagues to get a better idea of the person besides a resume.”

The search for the right candidate to become principal at Central Middle School took on added importance when the board initially selected Dr. Matt Eriksen, an administrator for North Shore School District 112, to lead the school last June. Despite an impressive resume, Eriksen was soon under cloud of suspicion after anonymous emails were sent to board members questioning his treatment of staff at School District 112. After discussing the situation with Ericksen, the board rescinded his contract during a heated and jam-packed board meeting last June.

The board then selected Michelle Reed to become the new principal at Central Middle School during a school board meeting last July. Reed served in that capacity for 2018-19 but decided to leave after the school year for family reasons.

Therefore, Machak and the board felt they needed to be more thorough in the selection process for a new principal.

“Kathleen has worked with Ms. Reed,” Machak said. “It’s going to be a big job for Kathleen because she is going to remain as the director of curriculum. I think Kathleen will do a great job in the interim.

“Kathleen is an incredible person,” Machak said. “We have worked side by side for seven years in this school district. In all that time, I can’t remember a single conversation with her that wasn’t about, at its core, the improvement of teaching and learning in our schools. Kathleen remains a teacher at heart, and her belief in the goodness of our children, our teachers, and in our public education system has allowed her to lead some amazing transformations across the district.”

Prado was hired as District 124’s curriculum director at the start of the 2012-13 school year. During her tenure, she has led the review of the District Math, English Language Arts, Science, and Social Sciences curricula.

“Kathleen has really focused her efforts on the middle school the last two years” Machak continued. “She has been instrumental in helping the teachers and students at Central make the shift from junior high to middle school. She worked closely with the Central staff to create a middle school schedule from the ground up. In the past year, we have added daily Advisory, Gifted Algebra, opportunities for daily academic support, and STEM-based electives at all three grade levels at Central. None of these things would have happened for our kids without Kathleen Prado. “

Prior to coming to Evergreen Park, Prado worked as an assistant principal, intervention coordinator, and second-grade teacher. She holds master’s degrees in educational administration and curriculum and Instruction, and a master’s and bachelor’s degree in education from Governors State University.

“I have been working from a distance supporting Central Middle School and look forward to the opportunity to be there on a daily basis to ensure the work we started continues,” Prado said. “I am very passionate about District 124 and the work we have engaged in over the years around addressing the wide range of needs that all of our learners present. With the addition of Mr. [Daniel] Richmond and Mrs. Daly, we will have a strong team to support the teachers in the great work that they do and with supporting the students to feel like Central is a place they are excited to come to each day.”

Jenny Daly — who has been with the District since 2000, primarily as a math teacher — moves into an assistant principal role at CMS after excelling in her role as the District’s MTSS coach last year, Machak said. She has a master’s degree in general administration from St. Xavier University and a bachelor’s in education from Eastern Illinois University.

Machak said that since Prado will also continue as curriculum director that it was necessary for her to receive support.

“There are so many great things that the teachers at Central are doing with our students,” Machak said. “With her knowledge of the District curriculum and the Central students and staff, Kathleen can hit the ground running as soon as school starts and continue to move these initiatives forward.”

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