Rubi Ortiz

Two important administrative positions in Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 were filled last week, when school board members voted to hire an English Language Learner (ELL) services director and a principal for Lincoln School in Brookfield.

School board members voted unanimously to name Rubi Ortiz, who most recently served as an assistant principal at George Washington Middle School, as the new ELL services director and, in somewhat of a surprise, rehired Theresa Silva as principal of Lincoln School.

“All in all, when I left that meeting, I said, ‘I think it was great that I got part of my team in place,” said Superintendent Kristopher Rivera in an interview following the July 23 school board meeting where the hires were made.

Ortiz was responsible for managing the school district’s ELL (bilingual services) program on a stipend basis while serving as a GWMS assistant principal, so it made sense, Rivera said, that she move into the full-time role of ELL services director. Her one-year contract calls for her to be paid $105,000.

At this time, Ortiz’s role will focus only on the district’s ELL program, which includes evaluating the program and making sure it follows federal guidelines, evaluating staff, coordinating hiring and testing and providing professional development.

Initially, Rivera told the school board he wanted the new ELL director to also handle district communications. While that may still be folded in sometime in the future, Rivera told board members that being ELL director by itself was “still a huge job.”

This will be Silva’s second stint as principal at Lincoln School, and the vote to rehire her was not unanimous. Board members Sharon Anderson and Marge Hubacek voted against the recommendation to hire Silva, while Shannon Johnson voted yes after a long pause and a caveat that she “hope[d] there will be some great mentoring going on.”

Silva served as principal at Lincoln School during the 2017-18 school year and resigned rather than face not being rehired after her one year at the school. Anderson and Hubacek at the time told the Landmark that they would have voted against rehiring Silva, but Silva had many supporters among parents and teachers. The superintendent at the time, Carol Baker, also said Silva “did a good job her first year.”

Silva applied for the Lincoln School opening after it was posted following the resignation of Principal Tara Kristoff in February. Silva had spent the 2018-19 school years as interim principal at a school in Oak Park.

“I love the staff, the community and the kids,” said Silva in a phone interview. “I’m looking forward to rejoining the staff. It’s going to be a great year.”

Silva’s base salary will be $90,000, which is $5,000 less than she was paid in 2018-19. However, this time Silva will also have an assistant principal on her team. Catherine Eichhammer was named to that post during the summer of 2018, shortly after Silva left as Lincoln principal.

It also was made clear at the July 23 school board meeting that Silva was not the first person offered the Lincoln School job. Rivera confirmed that he had first offered the principal’s job to George Washington Middle School Assistant Principal Gary Wheaton.

However, after delays in bringing administrator recommendations to the school board for a vote, said Rivera, he changed direction. With the school board not approving Ortiz as ELL director until late July, Rivera said he did not want to have to search for two GWMS assistant principals just a month before school was set to begin.

It’s unclear whether Wheaton plans to leave the district after getting the job offer withdrawn.

“I reached out to him and … expressed that he is a valuable member of this administrative team,” said Rivera. “He’s disappointed, and I respect an individual’s rights to exercise their options. I certainly hope he does not leave.”