Madison School District Superintendent Jen Cheatham announced Thursday that Issac Kirkwood, who has led Jefferson Middle School since 2015, will be leaving his job Nov. 10, with assistant principal Katrina Rice to serve as interim principal until a permanent replacement is hired.

“I know that a transition in the middle of the school year can be challenging, but I know we have a strong staff and strong interim leaders to ensure Jefferson continues a great school year,” Cheatham told Jefferson families.

In a separate announcement Thursday to the Jefferson school community, Kirkwood said he is resigning barely three months into his third year as principal of the school at 101 S. Gammon Road “with mixed emotions” to deal with a health problem and be closer to relatives.

“Being part of a progressive school district has been a privilege and an opportunity for my personal and professional growth,” he said. “However, ongoing medical issues that I’m experiencing and the fact that I am miles away from my family have led me to this decision.”

Cheatham said a “full principal hiring search” for Kirkwood’s replacement would begin later this year, inviting input and participation from school families in the hiring process and directing them to a website with more information on the timeline and the hiring process.

“We will be in touch later this winter to partner with you through that process,” Cheatham said.

In addition to Rice running the school on an interim basis, Colleen Lodholz, a former district middle school principal, will serve as acting assistant principal, Cheatham said.

More information about the nature of Kirkwood’s illness was not immediately available, and the statements from Cheatham and Kirkwood did not directly address it.

“While I know principal Kirkwood has enjoyed being part of the Jefferson community, I also know that he has made the best decision he can for him and his family,” Cheatham said. “I want to thank Issac for his service, and I know you’ll join me in wishing him all the best.”

Prior to becoming principal of Jefferson on an interim basis in the 2015-16 school year, Kirkwood was assistant principal at West High School. He also worked in leadership roles at an elementary school and a middle school in Racine, according to a district statement.

“I have the deepest affection for the staff of Jefferson Middle School and enjoyed spending each day with students,” Kirkwood said in his statement Thursday.

Jefferson Middle School is one of 13 middle schools in the 50-school Madison School District.

Kirkwood oversaw the completion this summer of a $7.4 million remodeling of the middle school, which was built in 1969 with an open-classroom concept that in practice was too noisy and distracting for good teaching, officials said.

The project was paid for with part of a $41 million referendum approved by voters in 2015 to expand or renovate 16 district schools in need of immediate fixes.

“... Ongoing medical issues that I’m experiencing and the fact that I am miles away from my family have led me to this decision.” Issac Kirkwood, Jefferson Middle School principal
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