Dr. Lopez says farewell to WHS, moves higher into Dist. 214

by Megan Jones, Editor-in-Chief

As students from WHS settled into class on Friday, April 5, Dr. Lazaro Lopez, principal, announced his promotion as he moves higher into District 214 as the Associate Superintendent for teaching and learning. His promotion is effective July 1.

“The opportunity is very bittersweet; I really enjoy being principal of WHS as it’s been my identity for the last six years and I would gladly do it for many more,” Dr. Lopez said. “In reality, I’d love to do both jobs. I’m excited about the role I can play to foster partnerships, external experiences and career pathways for all six of our district schools.”

Dr. Lopez has led WHS for the last six years as he expanded it into a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) focused high school. He recently added nanotechnology into the science curriculum, making WHS the first public high school in the country to house a research and development nanolab.

Mary Jo Cameron, senior, personally experienced Lopez’s expansion of WHS as she enrolled in the certified nursing assistant program.

“He’s created a lot more opportunities for the students to be able to choose a career path in high school and gain experience before college. I’m considering changing my career path, but if I had already paid for a whole year of nursing in college, this (switching majors) would not be an option for me,” Cameron said.

Patricia Nicpon’s, parent of Kelsey Nicpon, senior, children have attended WHS over the last ten years. Her family is currently closing a chapter of having high school students as her daughter, senior K. Nicpon, graduates this year.

“I really see a huge difference in the kids’ attitudes and the school as a whole. When my sons were going to school, there was less comradery and very little school spirit. Now, Laz has really brought out that the kids should be proud of their community and their school,” Ms. Nicpon said.

He was recently named the 2013-14 High School Principal of the Year by the Illinois Principals Association for his “STEM for all” initiative, which provides students of all ability levels access to “21st century skills” such as problem solving, teamwork, scientific inquiry, technology and communication within curriculum.

“I’m just really proud and grateful to have experienced Wheeling under Dr. Lopez’s direction; it has truly been nothing short of a blessing,” Michael Yoshino, senior, said. “I certainly hope he remains somewhere high-up in the district for when my little sister and brother come through.”

Dr. Lopez plans to continue his work at WHS through STEM, partnerships, grants and bringing relevance in the classroom on a broader scale at all six high schools Dist. 214 serves.

“My initial goal is to travel to all schools and meet staff members from across the district to hear their own aspirations for the ways they can be both relevant and engaging to our district-wide students,” Dr. Lopez said.

He plans to work very closely with the new principal of WHS and stay personally involved in the partnerships and organizations that have supported WHS’s resources.

In regards to the nanotechnology lab, Dr. Lopez plans to navigate the process especially within the first two years. He adds that “while the lab will be at Wheeling, we hope for it to have a regional impact.”

However, many students have expressed concerns for the future principal for WHS.

“I feel like we are not going to grow as fast as he’s had the school grow so far. I hope that he or she can continue improving the school status and keep pushing what Dr. Lopez has already set in place,” Cameron said.

According to Alex Gleyzer, junior, it will be hard to replace someone as “great” as him, but he knows Dr. Lopez has the ability to make the District better.

“Whoever follows him has to keep with his strengths and follow his ideas. He’s got the kids excited to be at WHS. He restored dignity,” Ms. Nicpon said.