By Bob Skolnik
On June 26, the Lyons-Brookfield District 103 school board voted 6 to 0 to hire Theresa Silva as the new principal at Lincoln School to replace Katie Schumann, who resigned unexpectedly in May.
Silva, 44, is an experienced principal, having served as a principal for 14 years in three different school districts, although last year she worked as a seventh- and eighth-grade writing teacher at the Catalyst Maria, a charter school on the Southwest Side of Chicago.
Silva said she returned to the classroom to get first-hand experience of current teaching techniques and practices to help her be a better principal in the future.
"After being a principal for 14 years, I made a very conscious decision to go back to the classroom to become better at my craft as a principal," Silva said.
Silva speaks English and Spanish fluently, and she has spent her career working in schools with large Hispanic enrollments. In the 2015-16 school year, 52 percent of Lincoln students were Hispanic and 23 percent of Lincoln students were classified as English language learners, which means English is not their first language.
Prior to teaching at Catalyst Maria, Silva served as the principal of three schools in Blue Island District 130, and served for seven years as the principal of Paul Revere Primary School (K to 3rd grade) in Blue Island while also serving as the principal of the district's kindergarten center.
For three years Silva was the principal at Grant Elementary School in Melrose Park, where her assistant principal was Kim Ontiveros, the principal of Home School in Stickney.
Silva grew up in Hickory Hills and received her bachelor's and master's degrees from St. Xavier University.
She said she plans on bringing a program to Lincoln School called Responsive Classroom.
"Responsive Classroom is about building community within your classroom and as well as within the school," Silva said.
One element of the Responsive Classroom is a morning meeting in which a class might get in a circle and greet each other to start the day. The program stresses cooperation among students and the teacher.
District 103 Superintendent Carol Baker was impressed by the breath of Silva's experience and her new ideas.
"Any time you can bring someone in who can hit the ground running and actually teach us about something, that's a bonus for us," Baker said.
Nine applicants were interviewed for the position and four made it to the second round of interviews. The candidates were interviewed by groups of Lincoln School parents, teachers and district administrators. After Silva emerged as the pick, she met with the school board in closed session the night she was hired.
Theresa Schubert, the secretary of the Lincoln School PTA, was a member of the interview panels and came away impressed by Silva.
"She came very prepared with a four-month plan and shared some really good ideas," Schubert said. "However, I'm not sure if they can be carried out in a year's time. I think her being bilingual is definitely a plus."
Silva will be paid an annual salary of $95,000 and received a one-year contract. She will officially start work on July 31, but already is interviewing teacher applicants.