Congress Park School in Brookfield will have its third principal in four years when classes begin in the fall of 2010. On Monday night, the LaGrange-Brookfield District 102 board formally announced the hiring of Michele Ramsey, who has been principal of Ardmore Elementary School in Addison since 2007.

The district began conducting a search for a new principal in February, said Superintendent Walter Shillingburg. A committee of teachers and parents from Congress Park and district administrators sifted through 155 resumes since that time, with Ramsey rising to the top.

“We were looking for someone with experience as a principal who had a warm, positive personality, a very energetic candidate with a can-do attitude,” Shillingburg said.

It seemed evident that the district was looking for someone who had experience connecting with a diverse student and parent population. Congress Park School, from a demographic standpoint, is far different than other elementary schools in District 102. It has more than double the percentage of low-income students – 34 percent – of any other in the district (Forest Road School in LaGrange Park is next in line at 15.5 percent).

Congress Park School also has the most ethnically diverse population in the district, with 23 percent of the student body Hispanic and 16 percent black.

Those are numbers that Ramsey is comfortable with. Ardmore School’s population is 77 percent Hispanic and 57 percent low income. It has programs to identify at-risk students in pre-kindergarten, bilingual classrooms. Ramsey is also familiar with the response to intervention process, something Shillingburg said was critical for the new principal.

One thing that’s quite different between Ardmore and Congress Park is that Ardmore is a grade-level center with only pre-K and kindergarten students.

Ramsey has two master’s degrees from Dominican University in River Forest and is working on her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at Northern Illinois University. Shillingburg said that Ramsey’s starting salary will be $89,000.

Ramsey replaces Bill Ward, a retired elementary and middle school administrator, who is finishing up his second year as interim principal at Congress Park. Ward spent 34 years as a teacher and administrator in Center Cass District 66 in Downers Grove and five as assistant headmaster at Northridge College Prep in Niles.

“He’s brought a lot of peace and calm to the building, and it needed that,” said Shillingburg.

Ward said his goal during the two years as interim principal was to have the school “come together with its community and have kids enjoy the joy of learning.”

The key was, said Ward, “involving people, working with people, being visible and letting people know we want them involved in the school setting. We’ve been working hard at that, and I’m comfortable that has been accomplished.”