Two new faces greeted the students at Mount Prospect's Lincoln Middle School and Fairview Elementary when the school year opened in late August.
Jason Kaiz and Daniel Ophus are the new principals at Lincoln and Fairview, respectively. Both worked as assistant principals previously -- Kaiz at Attea Middle School in Glenview and Ophus at Washington Elementary in Park Ridge.
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Roughly six weeks into the start of the school year, Kaiz and Ophus talked about how their new jobs have gone so far and what they like about working in Mount Prospect Elementary District 57.
Kaiz, a Deerfield native, was hired to replace former Lincoln principal Don Angelaccio, who left the school after eight years to become assistant superintendent in Prospect Heights Elementary District 23.
Kaiz said the teachers, staff and parents at Lincoln have all helped make his transition to the principal's post a smooth one.
"I'm lucky because everyone has been so involved and welcoming," he said. "That's really helped in this first month."
Kaiz said his new duties aren't all that much different from the ones he performed as an assistant principal in Glenview.
"I did things like curriculum and teacher development at my old job," he said. "I guess the biggest adjustment has just been trying to balance the time that I'm in meetings with time spent in the building and even in the classrooms."
Kaiz has been a teacher as well as an administrator in his 15-year career, all of which has been spent with middle-school students.
"While I'm sure I would enjoy working with other age groups, I must say that there's something very interesting about the middle-school years," he said. "You see the most growth in students, I think. You get to watch as they find themselves. It's fascinating."
Ophus' arrival to Fairview this year is a homecoming of sorts. He spent six years as a teacher in District 57 earlier in his career.
"Because of that, I felt pretty comfortable starting here as principal," Ophus said. "And I've gotten so much help; everyone from the secretarial staff to the teachers and all the families have been wonderful."
Ophus, a Palatine native, replaced former Fairview principal April Jordan, who is now the principal of the Skokie School in Winnetka.
Ophus said this is a particularly exciting time to be an educator.
"We're so much better at teaching students as individuals than we were," he said. "We spend a lot more time tailoring our efforts to students' specific needs, rather than just lecturing them all as one group. That's hard work, but it's also very rewarding.
"And I love how technology has changed education," he added. "It really motivates the students. They get to explore, not just sit and listen."
Ophus has made it a priority to drop into classrooms informally from time to time, and to talk to students in the cafeteria.
"I want them to know me, and I certainly want to get to know them," he said. "A lot of them are already quizzing me -- 'What's my name, Mr. Ophus?' -- it's been great."
Kaiz and Ophus aren't the only new administrators in District 57 this year. Cassie Black is the district's new director of student services. She replaced Donna Toops, who took a student-services job in Avoca District 37 in Wilmette.