New administrators will welcome students for start of school

The Chronicle asked our newest school administrators questions to help introduce them to the community.  Although a few are familiar faces, they will be in new roles this school year. Others we are welcoming to the Homewood-Flossmoor community.


Melissa Lawson

  Melissa Lawson

Principal
Willow School, Homewood
[email protected]

Where did you grow up?
Munster, Ind.

Where did your parents work?
My father started his career as a high school math teacher and then retired as the registrar at Purdue University Calumet. My mother was a high school English teacher and then went to work in a variety of positions at the University of Chicago.

How many siblings do you have?
I have a younger sister, Wendy.

What was your first job?
I was a hostess in a restaurant.

Where did you go to college?
Purdue. Boiler Up!

What was your first job in a school?
I taught fourth grade at Lincoln School in Hammond, Ind. for 12 years before coming to Homewood District 153.

Have you read any good books lately?
I’m always reading! Right now I am reading “The Lone Ranger and Tonto,” “Fistfight in Heaven” by Sherman Alex and “Transforming School Culture” by Anthony Muhammed. Before those I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me.”

What do you like to do for fun?
I love to read and take my dogs Niblet and FIFA for a walk. My son is a college soccer player so any opportunity to see him play is a treat! I’m learning yoga and gardening ... slowly!

What are you looking forward to this school year?
Everything! When you have a building full of engaged and happy students, an amazing staff and a wonderful community that is vested in their schools, there’s no limit to the great things that will happen!


Nicole 'Nikki' Kerr

  Nicole Kerr

Principal
Churchill School, Homewood
[email protected]

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Omaha, Neb. My family lived there until I was two years old, and then we moved to Elmwood Park, Ill. We lived there until I was in fifth grade, and then we moved back to Omaha. I went to high school and college in Nebraska, and then moved back to Chicago to begin teaching.

Where did your parents work?
My dad spent the majority of his career as an emergency room nurse, and has worked in a number of hospitals in both Omaha and Chicago. My mom began her career as a buyer for Madigan’s Department Store. She then worked as a vice president for First National Bank of Omaha for many years. She now owns her own consulting company, and travels between Canada, Los Angeles and Colorado working with clients.

How many siblings do you have?
I have one younger sister, Lexxi, who lives in Omaha with her family.

What was your first job?
My first job was at American Eagle Outfitters at Westroads Mall in Omaha.

Where did you go to college?
I attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

What was your first job in a school?
My first job in a school was when I began teaching third grade at Churchill School. I graduated college in May, and began teaching third grade in August of the same year.

Have you read any good books lately?
I love to read, and am always looking for a great new book to add to my list! I am open for recommendations!

What do you like to do for fun?
My family likes to visit the zoo, be outside, and go to the museums to spend time together. I have twin boys that just turned 3, so we like to spend time going on different adventures!

What are you looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to so many things this school year! I love getting to know all of our new third graders, and welcoming back our fourth and fifth graders. I enjoy hearing about how the summer went, and am always excited to begin the year together!


Lisa Dallacqua

  Lisa Dallacqua

Principal
Western Avenue School, Flossmoor
[email protected]

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Michigan, but I have lived in Chicago for the past 11 years.

Where did your parents work?
My parents worked for different automotive companies in the suburbs of Detroit. My father is a lawyer and my mother is an accountant.

How many siblings do you have?
I am the oldest of four girls. I loved growing up in a big family. My sisters are my best friends!

What was your first job?
I bussed tables at a Buddy’s Pizza by my house, and when I turned 16 I waited tables.

Where did you go to college?
I went to Kalamazoo College. It is a small liberal arts school in southwest Michigan. After college, I moved to Chicago to teach in the city.

What was your first job in a school?
I taught high school Spanish at Austin High School, on Chicago’s west side.

Have you read any good books lately?
I absolutely love to read. I am currently reading “The Lacuna” by Barbara Kingsolver. My favorite books from this year would have to be “Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago” by Eric Klinenberg and “Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea,” by Mitchell Duneier.

What do you like to do for fun?
I love being outdoors. When I am not at work, you can find me outside running and swimming at Promontory Point. I also love practicing yoga and playing guitar. There is nothing like a great Beatles or Bob Dylan song. They are my favorite to play.

What are you looking forward to this school year?
I am so excited to be part of the family at Western Avenue Elementary, and I cannot wait to meet our kids! I know we are going to have an amazing year together.


Jennifer Rudan

  Jennifer Rudan

Assistant principal
Homewood-Flossmoor High School
[email protected]

Where did you grow up?
East Hazel Crest

Where did your parents work?
My mom and dad owned their own construction company and my mom is the village administrator for East Hazel Crest.

How many siblings do you have?
I have 5 siblings. I have an older brother and two older sisters and then a younger brother and sister. 

What was your first job?
My first job was teaching swim lessons at H-F when I was in high school.

Where did you go to college?
I received my undergraduate degree from DePaul University and my master’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University.

What was your first job in a school? 
My first job was teaching Physical Education at H-F.

Have you read any good books lately?
I am a huge Harry Potter fan and every couple of years I re-read the entire series so I just started on book 1. I also just finished reading “The Charge” by Brendon Burchard, which was amazing if you need a great motivational book.

What do you like to do for fun?
I like working out crossfit style with my colleagues. I love playing games and video games with my children. Anytime hanging out with my husband is a ton of fun.

What are you looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to working with our amazing students in a different role and helping them achieve their many goals. I am also looking forward to working with our new principal who is inspiring and passionate about students and education.


Dana Smith

  Dana Smith

Superintendent
Flossmoor District 161
[email protected]

Where did you grow up?
Park Forest

Where did your parents work?
My mother was a music teacher and my father was in the military [Air Force].

How many siblings do you have?
I have two siblings and I am the middle child.

What was your first job?
My first job was as an usher at the Park Forest Movie Theater. The movie perks were pretty great!

Where did you go to college?
I received my bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan University, my master’s degree from North Central College, and my doctorate from DePaul University.

What was your first job in a school?
I was a lunch aide at an elementary school in Normal, Ill., during college. That is a very humbling job.

Have you read any good books lately?
I am just finishing “The Unlearning Leader” by Michael Lubelfeld and Nick Polyak. It is a quick, but thoughtful text on how to adjust our leadership behaviors to support the schools of the future in today’s society.

What do you like to do for fun?
I really enjoy spending time with my family and engaging in any outdoor activities like hiking and camping.

What are you looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to welcoming all of the students in August for the start of an amazing year of school!


Jerry Lee Anderson

  Jerry Anderson

Principal
Homewood-Flossmoor High School
[email protected]

Where did you grow up? 
I grew up in Denver.

Where did your parents work?
My father was a career serviceman in the military. My mother worked for the Colorado Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

How many siblings do you have?
I have 2 sisters and two brothers.

What was your first job?
My first job was working at Sears Department Store. I was a salesclerk who floated to different departments.

Where did you go to college?
I attended George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University for my Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences and Secondary Education. The University of Colorado at Denver for my Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction (Reading). I also attended Loyola University of Chicago for my Doctorate of Philosophy in Supervision and Administration.

What was your first job in a school?
My first job in a school was at the U.S. Embassy American School of Asunción in Asunción, Paraguay. I served as a Social Studies teacher.

Have you read any good books lately?
I recently finished reading “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy playing tennis whenever I have the opportunity. I also enjoy reading and traveling.

What are you looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to having a great school year, working with the administration and teachers, meeting students and parents, and becoming reaquainted with H-F and the community!


Fred Hunter

  Fred Hunter

Principal
Parker Junior High, Flossmoor
[email protected]

Where did you grow up?
Evanston

What was your first job?
Camp Counselor at Olympian Sports Camp

Where did you go to college?
Johnson C. Smith University; Illinois State University; National Louis University

What was your first job in a school?
Eighth grade math teacher at Haven Middle School

Have you read any good books lately?
“Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students” by Zaretta Hammond.  I’m currently reading “Community: The Structure of Belonging” by Peter Block.

What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, bike riding and photography.

What are you looking forward to this school year?
I’m looking forward to working with the Parker school community to build a high quality instructional environment where students excel academically, socially, and emotionally.
 


This Q&A first appeared in the Back to School section of the Chronicle's Aug. 1 print edition.

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