Last updated: August 18. 2014 9:42PM - 310 Views
By - golson@civitasmedia.com



Greg Olson | Journal-CourierSouth Jacksonville Elementary School second-grade teachers Kelly Hunter (left) and Jodi Heitbrink (right) talk with new Principal Kelly Zoellner after the first day of classes Monday.
Greg Olson | Journal-CourierSouth Jacksonville Elementary School second-grade teachers Kelly Hunter (left) and Jodi Heitbrink (right) talk with new Principal Kelly Zoellner after the first day of classes Monday.
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Two new Jacksonville elementary school principals are excited to get the school year under way.


The first day of school on Monday “went extremely well,” said Paul Monrad, the new principal of Lincoln Elementary School. “As expected, our staff was extremely prepared and truly anticipated the beginning of the school year. The first day of school’s smoothness and effectiveness are truly attributed to the staff and their willingness to be prepared and to pitch in whenever needed.”


Monrad has 15 years of experience in education as a teacher and an administrator in Peoria public schools.


“What I bring as principal of Lincoln is the ability to work effectively with parents through consistent communication, especially listening to those in the Lincoln school community,” Monrad said.


“I think before I got here the school already had the integral parts of a successful school — that being the staff that is committed to the learning needs, social growth and academic success of students,” he said. “I think the greatest thing is their eagerness to work with children through compassionate and … desire to enable students to have high expectations for themselves.”


Monrad stressed that the Lincoln Elementary School community and the school staff want to see all students prepare themselves for success at the secondary school level and beyond.


“I firmly believe that we will accomplish each and every one of our goals this school year,” he said. “Many Lincoln students and families already face challenging life obstacles, but all of them have a strong desire for the children to be successful in school and in life.”


Lincoln Elementary School opened the year with about 300 students.


A couple of miles away, in South Jacksonville, Kelly Zoellner began her first year as principal of South Jacksonville Elementary School.


“Being my first year as an administrator, I thought today went very smoothly,” she said. “I’m new to the community, and everyone I’ve met has been very helpful and we’re excited to be here.”


Zoellner taught fourth and fifth grade in the Ball-Chatham School District for 11 years and the past two years was an instructional coach in Decatur public schools.


“What I bring to the principalship is a sense of community and a passion for all types of learning,” Zoellner said. “I want kids to know that they can be successful at anything they want to do. Our job as educators is to get students ready for the next step in their lives. For me, this school year will be one of assessing and learning.”


South Jacksonville Elementary School started the year with 367 students.


All School District 117 staff wore “Why Are We Here?” T-shirts on Monday. Superintendent Steve Ptacek said the shirts were meant to reinforce that the staff is unified “as partners with a shared mission of preparing our students.” He said the T-shirts also promote conversation and “teachable moments” with students and parents.


All District 117 schools will dismiss one hour early this week because of expected high temperatures, Ptacek said.



Greg Olson can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1224, or on Twitter @jjcGregOlson.


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