Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity School principal earns praise from many parents, but search underway for new leader after she wasn’t offered contract extension
by BRIAN NADIG
A search has begun for a new principal at the Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity School, 6040 W. Ardmore Ave., but some parents argue that current principal Dr. Kristine Hillmann exceeded expectations and earned the right to be offered a contract for next school year.
Several parishioners who contacted Nadig Newspapers said that Dr. Hillmann displayed remarkable leadership in getting the new school off the ground, especially given the additional challenges created by the pandemic. Saint Elizabeth, which is located in the former Saint Tarcissus School building, is finishing up its first academic year.
“It really was a great year. The pandemic school year was about surviving. We would have been thrilled if all that happened was no child got gravely ill, and they all learned a little bit,” said Saint Elizabeth Parents Club president Anne Salvador. “Instead, Dr. Hillmann found a way to make the school thrive. I’ve never seen the teachers, students and parents more happy with their principal.”
The school has a enrollment of about 200 students and was formed as part of the consolidation of the Saint Tarcissus, Saint Thecla and Saint Cornelius parishes. The consolidation resulted in the closing of Saint Thecla School and the north campus of the Pope Francis Global Academy.
A group of parents have been soliciting feedback on Dr. Hillmann’s performance and providing the results to parish pastor Mike Grisolano and Archdiocese of Chicago officials.
About 100 parents, 16 teachers and six students responded to the survey as of last week, and Dr. Hillmann received an overall rating of 4.89, with five being the top score. Respondents are asked to rate her on 23 items, including her interaction with students and the overall effectiveness of her leadership.
Salvador said at the survey is intended to provide officials with empirical data demonstrating her performance at the school.
“The Arch is aware of the situation. They have received the full survey results and many e-mails. They are actively engaged in the matter,” Salvador said in an e-mail to members of the school community.
In a letter to school parents that was posted online, Grisolano said that while his decision not to extend a contract to Dr. Hillmann “came as a shock to many,” it was made with “much observation, consultation and prayer.” He also wrote that the parish school board did not advise him on the decision.
“(The decision) may have caused a combination of many emotions, including hurt, anger and fear to name a few. Many of you have observed Dr. Hillmann governing the school well in a challenging COVID year and that teachers were excited with her leadership.
“That being said, and with acknowledgement of her gifts, I can honestly say before God in good conscience and with good reasons that not extending her contract was the right decision,” Grisolano wrote. He added that a search committee, which includes three school board members, a teacher and a staff member, has been formed and that interviews are scheduled.
“I absolutely want the school to succeed and pledge my support to it,” Grisolano said. He added, “We will get through this. The mission is bigger than all of us. The parish and school will move forward.”
Grisolano has scheduled a town hall meeting for parents at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 4, at the Saint Elizabeth Church, 6020 W. Ardmore Ave.
Some students recently made lawn signs showing their appreciation for Dr. Hillmann, and they were posted in front of the school.
An Archdiocese spokesman declined to comment on the matter because it was personnel-related.