By Bob Skolnik
Despite an outpouring of support from teachers for George Washington Middle School Principal Christopher Cybulski on March 26, the Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 Board of Education voted 4 to 3 against rehiring him.
More than 30 GWMS teachers and staff attended the school board meeting. Before the vote, five teachers spoke, praising Cybulski and imploring the board to retain him.
But board members Sharon Anderson, Shannon Johnson, Joanne Schaeffer and board President Marge Hubacek voted against rehiring Cybulski, leaving many teachers shocked, disappointed, and emotional.
"We're kind of all at a loss around here," said Toni Brandt, a seventh-grade science teacher at GWMS and the president of the district's teachers union. "We did not expect it. We expected that the board would hear us … and we're kind of left scratching our heads trying to figure it out."
Cybulski, who is in his second year as principal of GWMS, is one of four administrators in District 103 who won't be back next year. The board voted 7 to 0 not to renew the contract of Costello School Principal Jennifer Bednarczyk.
Special Education Director Janine Gruhn and Lincoln School Principal Theresa Silva resigned.
"We've never not renewed contracts like we did last night," said Schaeffer, who has served on the school board for nearly 39 years.
Approximately 100 people attended the meeting.
"I can say without a doubt that Mr. Cybulski is one of the best administrators that I have had the opportunity to work with," said GWMS physical education teacher Angela Kendrick. "He cares so deeply about this school and everyone in it. Student and staff morale is at an all-time high."
No principal has stayed at GWMS for more than four years since it became a middle school in 2000. Cybulski was hired in 2016 when a different faction held the majority of the school board. Voting to rehire Cybulski were board members Michael Bennett, Coleen Shipbaugh and Jorge Torres, who all voted to hire him in 2016.
Anderson and Schaeffer voted against hiring Cybulski in 2016 because of concerns about the hiring process. Anderson said that her previous vote against Cybulski played no role in her vote not to rehire him.
"It was a tough vote and it wasn't one that I took lightly," Anderson said. "I like Chris. I think that he's a really nice guy."
Superintendent Carol Baker recommended rehiring Cybulski, but she said she understood the concerns of the board members who voted not to renew his contract.
"I'm sad to see him go but the board had specific things they were looking at, and I believe that they voted true to the feelings that they had shared for some months now," Baker said.
One area of concern was apparently special education services at GWMS.
Helen D'Ambrosio, the mother of an eighth-grader and a frequent speaker during school board meetings, said that she thinks the board made the right decision.
"He's a nice guy, but he's not a leader," D'Ambrosio said. "Those teachers run him."
Cybulski said he was disappointed by the board's decision, but thankful for the support that he received from his staff.
"I can tell you that I am most proud of the positive, engaging and growth-oriented environment we have built for our students and staff at GWMS," Cybulski said in an email to the Landmark.
Cybulski said that over the last two years there was a drastic decline in student discipline concerns, a marked increase in extracurricular involvement and encouraging growth in Measures of Academic Progress test scores.
Board members talked generally about the need for strong leadership and better communication from principals. Some board members felt that they weren't told things that they should have been.
"I think lack of communication between the administration and the board is key," Hubacek said. "Communication is not good now."