By Bob Uphues
A week after voting to rescind a host of administrators' contracts, the Lyons-Brookfield Elementary School District 103 Board of Education acted on June 6 to approve many of those deals, including contracts for five school principals and two assistant principals.
The board also voted to approve new one-year contracts for the school district's curriculum director, special education director and preschool director, and hired a new student case manager/coordinator to help handle the district's heavy load of social/emotional cases.
A couple of the decisions, including votes on new contracts for Curriculum Director Natacia Campbell and Costello School Principal Jennifer Bednarczyk, drew derisive hoots from a crowd of parents unhappy with those employees.
Board President Marge Hubacek noted the discontent, but urged patience.
"I said [in February] we believe we may not be able to move as fast as you would like us," Hubacek said. "There's probably no more impatient person in the world than me. I have to borrow patience. But, legally we have some things we have to follow."
Hubacek also emphasized that district personnel, from the superintendent to custodial staff, would be held accountable by the school board.
"While sometimes we may have to make a decision that doesn't make anybody happy, let there be no doubt that the golden goose has laid the last golden egg," Hubacek said.
The school board declined to create five new instructional coach positions and a new multi-tier support systems coordinator position after school board members complained about a lack of information on the long-term financial ramifications of the new positions and the role of the coaches.
Board members also voted to table voting on new one-year contracts for the district's technology director and maintenance director, expressing reservations about both employees' abilities and requesting evaluations of their job performances.
Maintenance Director Ryan Grace, in particular, drew criticism for his performance from some on the school board. Shannon Johnson slammed the board's prior decision to give him a salary and benefits commensurate with the longtime director he replaced, including four weeks of vacation and a salary of more than $80,000.
"His salary is not reflecting his experience at all," Johnson said. "It is terrible for me to see that this person is making more money than an assistant principal. That is wrong. I need to see an evaluation before I can make an educated choice."
The school board was slated to reconsider those two contracts at the June 12 committee of the whole meeting, but the board did not discuss them or act on those deals at that meeting.
Instead, the board will now take those contracts up at their meeting on June 26.
Finally, the school board voted to re-employ Charline Latronica, who is the administrative assistant for Superintendent Carol Baker, although the board reduced her raise from roughly 6 percent to 3 percent.
Most of the votes to approve the administrative contracts and the votes against approving the instructional coaches and MTSS coordinator position were 4 to 0, with Hubacek, Johnson Sharon Anderson and Joanne Schaeffer casting the votes.
Schaeffer voted against approving the contracts for Campbell and Bednarczyk.
Johnson, in particular, expressed alarm at the failure of the administration and faculty to make progress on implementing a new curriculum that will align with state standards students will be tested on next spring.
Superintendent Carol Baker blamed teachers for failing to show up for curriculum meetings during the school year and tried to assure the board that faculty and administrators would make progress on the curriculum implementation over the summer, an answer that did not satisfy Johnson.
"This is critical, this is crucial," said Johnson, who is a teacher in a north suburban school district. "Our school district and our kids are assessed to these standards and they are not being taught what they need to be taught and, I'm sorry, the excuses are not flying."
Also on June 12, the board voted 4 to 2 not to hire two social workers and a speech pathologist that the administration recommended as part of effort to shift more work to district staff and away from the LaGrange Area Special Education Cooperative.
Hubacek, Anderson, Johnson, and Schaeffer all voted against the hires, expressing concern that the administration had not provided enough of a justification for the new hires. One of the rejected social workers was to be based at the George Washington Middle School.
The board did vote to hire a replacement social worker for Costello School and a nursing assistant for the district.
Michael Bennett was absent from the June 6 meeting. Jorge Torres and Coleen Shipbaugh, who with Bennett were part of the board majority prior to April 27 when new board members were sworn in, effectively sat out that meeting.
Torres voted present for every item on the agenda and Shipbaugh abstained for every vote except the vote to table the maintenance and technology contracts. She voted in favor of tabling those matters.
Prior to the vote, Torres – who was part of a lame-duck majority that voted to approve all of the administrative contracts and the new instructional coach positions at a special meeting on April 13 – read a prepared statement calling the board's decision to rescind the contracts on May 31 into question.
"The action taken on April 13 was legal and correct, and there was no violation of the Open Meetings Act," Torres said. "There were no legal grounds to rescind the administrators' contracts, the instructional coaches, the MTSS coordinator or the district case manager position."
Bob Skolnik contributed to this report.