Lincoln School now has its third principal this year. At a special meeting on March 18 the Lyons School District 103 Board of Education voted 5 to 2 to appoint a retired principal, Melinda “Mindy” McMahon, as the interim at Lincoln to serve out the rest of the school year.

Board members Jorge Torres and Michael Bennett voted against hiring McMahon. 

McMahon will be paid $550 a day and is only expected to be at Lincoln until late June. She replaces Tara Kristoff, who officially resigned March 11 and had been on paid leave since Feb. 14 after being accused of insubordination by top administrators. 

Since Feb. 14, District 103’s curriculum consultant, Andrea Maslan, served as acting principal at Lincoln. Maslan was not an option as Lincoln’s interim principal through the end of the school year, because she is receiving a pension from the Illinois Teacher Retirement System and is limited in the number of days she can work. 

McMahon retired in 2015 after serving as the principal of Madison School in Hinsdale for 23 years. Madison School was twice named a Blue Ribbon School while McMahon was principal there.

“She was a wonderful principal, good with the students, great with the parents,” said Amy Zimmerman, the school secretary at Madison School who worked closely with McMahon for 16 years. “She was very involved in every function that we had. Madison School was her life, basically.”

Veteran Madison School teacher Stephanie Vercoe, who grew up in Riverside, also praised McMahon.

“I think she really had a vision and a clear path that she set forward that we were able to follow,” Vercoe said.

Since retiring as a principal, McMahon has worked supervising student teachers for the University of Illinois College of Education and has taught as an adjunct professor and served as the principal internship coordinator at Concordia University in River Forest.

McMahon said she is ready to go to work but doesn’t know much about Lincoln School beyond what she has read in newspaper stories.

“I’m going to have to work to establish relationships,” McMahon said. “It sounds like they’ve had a lot of change.”

McMahon said she was impressed by what she saw on her first day at Lincoln.

“Students here are amazing and they are so respectful,” McMahon said. “You walk in a room and they are all looking at the teacher or doing their work and engaged in learning.” 

McMahon was interviewed by Co-interim Superintendent Patrick Patt and Maslan; she was the only person interviewed for the position.

“When you have that many years of experience and the district that you worked in all that time calls you back when they need you, [it’s an] incredible background,” Patt said explaining that he felt no need to interview anyone else for the short-term position.

The job wasn’t posted until March 12, after Kristoff resigned, but McMahon said that she learned about the opening a couple of weeks ago.

Asked why he voted against hiring McMahon, Torres said the only information he received about her was during a brief presentation by Patt prior to the school board’s vote.

“If I don’t have any information, how can I vote in a positive way?” Torres said.

Lincoln School is the largest elementary school in District 103 with about 535 students. It’s also the only elementary school in the district with an assistant principal, Cathy Eichhammer. 

Despite Lincoln having an assistant principal, both Patt and Co-interim Superintendent Robert Madonia said the school needed an interim to finish out the school year, especially considering the complexity of education today, including teacher evaluations, which need to be completed by the end of the school year.

“No one person could do all that,” Madonia said.

Patt said that McMahon will bring some stability to Lincoln for the rest of the school year.

“It’s a big job,” Patt said. “It’s a community that they’ve really had some turnover and this will be a nice stabilizing force for them from now through the end of the year.”