Proviso School District 209 recently announced it was hiring three new principals in an effort to improve academic performance at the district’s long-struggling schools. 

On July 1, Kim Waller-Echols became the new principal of Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA), Tony Valente took the reigns at Proviso East, and Dr. Roudell Kirkwood started as chief of Proviso West.

D209’s appointments were finalized last week, following approval by the state’s Financial Oversight Board, which has been tasked with overseeing some of the district’s operations. 

“We are glad to welcome our new principals aboard,” said D209 Board President Chris Welch, in a press release. “Over the years we have implemented some great programs that help support student achievement and we look forward to them joining our mission to raise levels of achievement.”

Waller comes to PMSA from Thornton Township District 205, where she served as the director of operations for the last year. Before that, she was the principal of Thornridge High School for five years. She also worked as a guidance counselor and assistant principal at Fremd High School in Palatine. She started her career as an elementary school teacher in the Chicago Public Schools in 1993, and was a guidance counselor at Jones Magnet High School in Chicago before going to Fremd in 2000.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity of working with gifted and talented students,” Waller-Echols said. “I will work collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure that we’re providing students with internal and external opportunities so that they can be successful in life.”

Waller-Echols said that she is excited to be a principal again because she enjoys working with students.

“I am excited about working with students to ensure that they are educated on a rigorous and college-prep level,” Waller-Echols said. “I want to work with faculty, staff and community members to create an environment that is student-centered.”

Clotilde Frankiewicz, PMSA’s interim principal last year, will assume her former post as assistant principal.

Ed Moyer, former PMSA principal, was promoted last fall to executive director of assessment and planning for the district.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Valente at Proviso East.

The 41-year-old began his teaching career at Proviso East in 1994: He taught history there until 2001, when he became dean of West Aurora High School. In 2006 he became assistant principal at Kaneland High School, and the following year he was promoted to principal. He left there after two years to work as principal of Hall High School in Spring Valley.

He said that he is happy to return to Proviso East, a school where 84.4 percent of juniors tested below state standards in reading, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

“It’s kind of a dream job for me,” Valente said. “I worked here as a teacher. It was a way for me to reconnect to the community, the students and come back to the place that was kind of my home.”

Valente was born in Italy and came to the United States at age five. His parents spoke Italian at home and had little formal education. Valente, too, struggled academically, and he said that his trials in school will help him relate to students facing similar adversity.

“That experience is with me and it always will be,” Valente said.

Valente first attended Triton College, and then went on to earn a Bachelor’s and Educational Specialist degrees from Northern Illinois University, as well as a Master’s from Northeastern Illinois University.

“There are many challenges that we’re going to take on collectively,” Valente said. “We need to look at curriculum and our instructional model.”

Milton Patch, who was the principal at Proviso East, has been named the district’s Athletics and Activities Coordinator. And at Proviso West, Kirkwood, a former principal at North Chicago and Rich South high schools, will replace Alexis Wallace who is being reassigned to a position as an English teacher.