Lincoln Elementary in Ottawa welcomes new principal, assistant principal

New principal moves to Ottawa from Oklahoma

Lincoln Elementary School in Ottawa will have two new administrators in 2022-2023: Principal Cherie Moss and Assistant Principal Jen Gervace.

Among the new faces at Ottawa Elementary schools this fall are Lincoln Elementary Principal Cherie Moss and Assistant Principal Jen Gervace.

Moss comes to Ottawa from Oklahoma where she taught for seven years before spending the last two years as a principal. She plans to focus on students before everything else as schools obtain their sense of normalcy that’s been lacking since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moss succeeds Melanie Conley, who was principal at Lincoln last school year. Conley is returning to teaching.

“By students first, I mean that COVID got in the way of that,” Moss said. “The last two years we had to go to a lot of digital and online learning. Now we’re planning to be in the building all year, no mask, and we’ll have students everywhere that are typically about a half-a-year behind because of COVID.”

Moss said it’s now up to her and Gervace, who comes to Ottawa from New Lenox, to work with the staff to help children that are a little behind while extending the learning of those who are learning at and beyond their grade level.

“I feel like during the pandemic, oftentimes decisions had to be made that weren’t in the best interest of the kids,” Gervace said. “It was in the best interest of society, but now we’re able to say we’re going to be focusing on the kids again.”

This is Gervace’s first administrative job but she was a literacy coordinator in Evergreen Park prior, which meant working with staff more than children. She’s most excited about working with children directly again.

“I was still able to have an impact on kids but it was through curriculum and supporting the teachers,” Gervace said. “I did miss being able to see kids and have conversations with them.”

Moss is working on her dissertation to receive her doctorate on top of moving to Illinois from Oklahoma for the new job, but moving isn’t anything new to her. She grew up in Germany before moving to Michigan as a kindergartner, and then calling Oklahoma home for eight years.

Classes for Ottawa Elementary begin Wednesday, Aug. 31, this year because of ongoing construction at the district’s schools.