By Bob Skolnik
Claudia Jimenez, who has been the principal of Columbus West School in Cicero since 2010, has been named the new principal at Congress Park School in Brookfield.
Jimenez replaces Terry Dutton, who had served as principal at Congress Park for the last five years. Dutton resigned to take a position as a program director with the Boy Scouts of America.
Jimenez has spent her entire career in Cicero Public School District 99. Prior to becoming principal at Columbus West, she served as principal at Roosevelt School for four years.
Fluent in Spanish, Jimenez began her career in 1997 as bilingual kindergarten teacher at Wilson School in 1997 and in 2000 became a social worker at Columbus West School. She became the assistant principal at Roosevelt in 2003 and principal there in 2006.
Jimenez earned a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's degree in social work from the University of Illinois, and she earned her school administrative certificate from Lewis University in 2003.
"Mrs. Jimenez is an experienced educational leader with a strong belief that all children can thrive," said LaGrange-Brookfield District 102 Superintendent Kyle Schumacher in a press release announcing the hire. "Her rich background celebrates diversity, promotes student growth and the firm foundation already established at Congress Park will continue to be strengthened with Mrs. Jimenez at the helm."
Congress Park School, which serves the southwest quarter of Brookfield, is the most ethnically diverse school in District 102. Forty-one percent of its students are Hispanic, almost double the percentage of Hispanic students compared to 2007; nearly 46 percent are white, and nearly 9 percent are black according to the latest Illinois School Report Card.
Eleven percent of students at Congress Park are not native English speakers, and 45 percent of Congress Park students are classified as low-income.
As a principal in Cicero, Jimenez piloted a bilingual program and helped develop common assessments in English and Spanish. Fifty-six percent of students at Columbus West School are non-native English speakers, 94 percent are Hispanic and 93 percent are classified as low-income.
In the coming school year, starting with kindergarteners, Congress Park will be implementing a voluntary dual-language program in which half the school day will be conducted in English and the other half in Spanish.
"I'm looking forward to building relationships with my new school community so that we can come together and meet the needs of all students at Congress Park School," said Jimenez in the press release. "I have always been passionate about dual-language programs and their success with developing biliteracy skills in students and overall student achievement."
At Congress Park School 49 percent of students met or exceeded state standards in PARCC testing, while another 27 percent approached state standards. These results trailed other schools in District 102, but exceeded state standards.
At Columbus West School only 12 percent of students met state standards and another 23 percent approached state standards, a result in line with other schools in District 99, but trailing state averages.
In a phone interview, Schumacher said student academic progress at Columbus West under Jimenez exceeded student academic progress at other District 99 elementary schools.
Jimenez will be paid $118,000 next year in her new post.
Schumacher praised Dutton for his work leading Congress Park School. When he was hired in 2012, Dutton was the fourth principal to lead the school within a five-year period.
"I thought Terry Dutton did a fantastic job," Schumacher said.