Komarek School will go with co-principals in 2020-21

School board appoints two administrators to serve in hybrid roles

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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

There's new leadership at Komarek School this year – and not just in the superintendent's office. While Todd Fitzgerald replaced Brian Ganan as superintendent on July 1, Principal Jason Gold quietly also left Komarek School this summer when his contract expired at the end of June. 

Gold has been replaced by two Komarek administrators who will serve as co-principals as well continue performing the jobs they already had. 

The new co-principals are Diane Michelini, who is the district's dean of students, and Caitlin DiLallo, the school district's director of student services. 

Both will be paid $20,000 stipends on top of their regular salaries to act as co-principals this year. Michelini will make a total of $89,888 this year, while DiLallo will make $109,880.

"They're both fantastic," said Ganan, who left Komarek to take over as superintendent of LaGrange School District 105

"They're both incredibly hard working and absolutely committed to the Komarek community."

Michelini, 38, has been at Komarek since 2008. She started out as a junior high math and science teacher before being named dean of students last year. She attended Komarek as young child for kindergarten, first, and second grades before her family moved to LaGrange Park.

"I do have fond memories of the school and the community," Michelini said.

Michelini graduated from Lyons Township High School and Eastern Illinois University. She has a master's degree in administration from Olivet Nazarene University.

DiLallo, 35, is starting her third year at Komarek School. She was initially hired to be the assistant principal in 2018 and last year became the school's director of student services. 

Her background is in special education. She's worked at residential schools, group homes, and at school districts in Wheaton and Huntley before coming to Komarek.

DiLallo earned her bachelor's degree in special education from Roosevelt University. She has two master's degrees, one from Western Michigan University in teaching kids with low vision and blindness and another in educational leadership from Lewis University. She earned her endorsement as a director of special education from the University of St. Francis.

The two co-principals have children the same age and have become friends in the time that they have worked together at Komarek.

"We get along very well," Michelini said.

They know that they will face a busy year working their regular jobs as well as serving as co-principals in what will be an unusual school year.

"I'm always up for a challenge, so I look forward to it and I'm excited," Michelini said. "I really love the community that I work in -- the students, the staff, the parents. I think this community is a great place to be a part of."

DiLallo agreed.

"We're very excited about taking this role on together and working on serving the students and community of Komarek," DiLallo said. "It's a unique opportunity."

The move to not renew Gold's contract and go with co-principals appears to be mostly an economic one. 

As a one-school district with an experienced former principal as the new superintendent, the new arrangement saves some money. It also gives Fitzgerald a year to get to know the school up close and recommend a path forward in subsequent years. 

Some in the district have felt that Komarek, as a one-school district, does not need both a superintendent and a principal.

Michelini and DiLallo say that they don't feel that they are competing against each other to possibly become the full-time principal in the future.

"I don't really think about it in that way," Michelini said. "We just want to give our best effort this year and do what's best for the students, the staff, the community, and sees where it goes from there."

As young administrators they plan to rely on advice and guidance from Fitzgerald, who was a middle school principal in Brookfield and Oak Park for 14 years.

"I think he'll be a great deal of help, to be honest," Michelini said. "He's already been extremely helpful in the short amount of time he's been here."

Gold, who served as principal at Komarek for four years, could not reached for comment. 

He submitted a brief four sentence letter of resignation to Ganan and the school board on March 9 and the board accepted his resignation on April 14. He served as principal through June 30. 

Gold was asked this spring by the Landmark if he was staying at Komarek and he said that he was. That turned out not to be true. No one at Komarek seems to know, or is willing to say, if Gold has a new job. His LinkedIn page online does not show a new job.

Komarek school board president Chris Waas did not return repeated messages asking for comment about the new arrangement.

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