As Oak Lawn Community High School rolls out the red carpet to welcome new principal Dr. Jeana Lietz for the coming school year, she has already begun implementing new ideas by greeting incoming freshman with a welcome of her own called the “Welcome Wagon.” This is a program consisting of staff and administrators personally visiting incoming freshmen to help make them feel a part of the OLCHS community before they ever step on campus. And it has been received with smiles and good feelings.
“Years ago while researching my dissertation about Fred Rogers, I heard about an elementary principal who went and visited her incoming kindergarteners to give them a friendly face when they came to school in the fall,” Lietz said. “I thought that the transition to high school is another, perhaps even scarier, transition for students and parents. The Welcome Wagon allows us to put some of those fears to rest, while sending the message that we value our students and parents.
“I hope that this will also lead into high parental involvement throughout the school year. It has been fun to visit houses and meet some of our students. And the staff has truly stepped up to help us visit all 425 houses.”
Lietz began as assistant principal at OLCHS in 2011 and finished her fifth year at the school before getting the new job as principal for the 2016-17 school year. Dr. Michael Riordan vacated the dual position to solely focus on his job as superintendent.
“I am excited and truly grateful to become principal at a school like Oak Lawn,” she said. “I want people (staff, students, parents and community members) to know that my door (and phone) is always open. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without their help.”
Lietz’s ideas for the school do not simply stop at the Welcome Wagon though. She has more in store for Spartan Nation.
“I look forward to expanding on the academic excellence our students are achieving,” she said. “One of my priorities is student, parent, and community engagement. I want OLCHS to become a place where everyone wants to be here, and the school becomes the hub of the community. I also want students to become more active in the school and take leadership roles in shaping policies and rules here at OLCHS. This should be a place for students, made by students, where the adults help facilitate their growth and learning.”
With all new jobs come challenges, and Lietz is prepared to face them head-on.
“The biggest challenge, which is one that the entire education community is facing right now, is the issue of equity… how do we make sure that all students have equal access to rigor and choices,” she said. “This includes students from all different backgrounds, and every student has something that makes them unique. I think of my leadership style as ‘student-centered,’ and keep that in mind when I make decisions. As long as I am able to stay true to that vision, it will make the challenges I face not seem so difficult.”