After three years heading up Brookfield-Lyons Elementary School District 103, Dr. Raymond Lauk will be out of job at the end of the 2005-06 school year. On Sept. 27, the District 103 board voted 4-3 not to renew Lauk’s contract despite the fact that it voted him a raise just six weeks ago.
Voting to renew Lauk’s contract were Gregory Frana, Judith Petrucci and Humberto Andrade. School board President Joanne Schaeffer, Stephen Mazur, Michele Visk and Deanna Huxhold voted against renewing the deal.
“I’m shocked,” said Lauk.
“The decision surprised me considering that student achievement is higher than at any other time in the district, that finances are better than at any time since the ’80s,” he added.
Asked if he knew what was behind the board’s decision, Lauk said, “I don’t know, because I wasn’t given any reasons. Nothing makes any sense.”
Board members who voted against renewing Lauk’s contract, admitted that during Lauk’s tenure, the district had improved in a number of areas, specifically in attracting high-quality candidates for the posts of curriculum director, special education director, and principals at Lincoln School in Brookfield, Costello School in Lyons and George Washington Middle School.
“He’s a good CEO and a good business person,” Schaeffer said. “I really appreciate working with him and really wish him the best.”
Board member Stephen Mazur added that Lauk “did a good job and put a lot of good things in place.”
When asked where the disconnect was between Lauk and the majority of the board, Schaeffer declined to elaborate, saying those issues were hashed out in an executive session.
“The last thing this decision was, was hasty,” Schaeffer said. “I’m proud of the board that they were able to sit and discuss this amiably. With this board sticking together, we’ll be able to move forward. The board stands committed to that goal.”
Despite that endorsement, it appears that personality conflicts lay at the bottom of the decision not to renew Lauk’s contract.
“It was his attitude toward the people. He didn’t fit in,” said Mazur, who had his share of personal run-ins with Lauk during the past two years, although Mazur said he and Lauk had “made up” during the past six months.
The battle between Mazur and Lauk reached a boiling point last winter, when Mazur was found guilty by the District 103 board of intimidating district staff, including Lauk, during a January incident at Robinson School in Lyons. Lauk in March issued a second complaint against Mazur for intimidation, but it was later dropped.
Mazur also said Lauk’s “accountability wasn’t there,” citing direction by the board to institute a human resources program early in his tenure. Mazur said Lauk never did that. He also referred to a dispute the board had with Lauk over the hiring and firing of some staff in the district office.
“My personal opinion was, it was his attitude,” Mazur said.
Petrucci said she was “terribly disappointed” by the board’s vote, saying Lauk “brought in a number of innovative ideas which the board accepted and implemented.” Petrucci named the district’s English as a Second Language program and new alternative in-school suspension program as prime examples of Lauk’s contribution.
“I think it’s an attitude, a feeling, a desire to keep moving forward,” Petrucci said. “He has a great vision for our district.”
She also said that board members should better understand their roles as policy makers.
“For the most part, it’s people who want to micromanage and don’t understand their position,” Petrucci said. “Theirs is not one of doing day-to-day management of the district.”
Frana declined to get into specifics of what prompted the majority to vote Lauk out, but said Lauk had the district headed in the right direction.
“I think we’re on the right road,” he said. “My only concern is that I’d hate to see anything like that set back. I support the board’s decision, but I have my reservations also.”
According to Schaeffer, the board at its Oct. 17 meeting will begin discussing what direction to take for its superintendent search. She was not certain whether the board would seek a private firm to do the search or use the Illinois Association of School Boards. The last time a private search firm was engaged to find a superintendent was in 1973, resulting in the hire Dr. David Noonan.
“I’d be my hope that this board, before spending taxpayer money on a search, would attempt to reconsider their action,” Petrucci said.