Brookfield-Lyons Elementary School District 103 has a new leader?”at least temporarily?”after the school board voted to hire an interim superintendent during a special meeting last Thursday night.

In an unanimous vote, the board hired Dr. Griff Powell to serve in a leadership capacity while it continues its search for a permanent replacement for Raymond Lauk, who will end his employment with the district on Feb. 28.

District 103 board members interviewed four candidates for the interim position last Thursday, just three days after board President Joanne Schaeffer contacted the Illinois Association of School Boards with an emergency request for possible applicants for the job.

Lauk, who is leaving the district to join G.E. Security as a marketing manager, informed Schaeffer of his plans on the evening of Feb. 10.

“I did think that day would be coming maybe by June 1 or in May,” Schaeffer said. “I didn’t expect it to be Feb. 28.”

On Feb. 12, the board met to plan the interview process for Lauk’s interim replacement. Powell will begin work officially on March 1. He likely will work one to three days per week and will be paid a per-diem salary based on Lauk’s base salary of $136,500, or about $523 per day.

“I’m just a bridge between Ray and the new superintendent,” Powell, 59, said. “I’ll try to make the transition as seamless as possible.”

Powell, a Morton Grove resident, retired from a full-time role in education in 2002 after 20 years as a superintendent on both the high school and elementary school levels. From 1998-2002, he was superintendent of Niles Township High School District 219, the same district where his teaching career began in the 1960s.

He was named superintendent of Grayslake High School in 1983 and of Highwood-Highland Park District 111 in 1989. In 1992, he left to become superintendent of Ramepo Central School District, a K-12 district in Hillburn, N.Y. He returned to the Chicago area in 1997, when he accepted the superintendent’s position at West Chicago High School.

He has served as an interim superintendent twice since his retirement, in Rich Township and as co-interim superintendent for one year in South Berwyn Elementary School District 100 in 2003.

Lauk, meanwhile, leaves academia for the corporate world. His position starts March 13 with G.E. Security, which is based in Bradenton, Fla.

According to Lauk, he’ll be part of a sales and marketing team “identifying markets for high-tech school security systems” for a brand new division within General Electric. In addition to his Ph.D., Lauk also holds an MBA from the University of Illinois.

“My experience as a superintendent and the fact that I have an MBA brought it all together,” Lauk said. “I’m someone who understands school systems, markets and business.”

Hired just under three years ago, Lauk walked into a district struggling to keep its head above water financially. With an education fund that was bankrupt, the district slashed programs to the bone, and went to voters on three separate occasions to win support for a property tax increase that would help pull it out of the red.

They finally succeeded on their third attempt, in March of 2004. Since that time, the district has reinstated previously sacrificed programs such as art and music, has hired a host of new teachers to limit class sizes and is now embarking on a capital projects program that will expand two of the district’s elementary schools in the coming year.

In 2005, the district also saw a dramatic rise in its scores on state standardized tests. The district instituted a new alternative school for children whose discipline problems would normally require them to serve suspensions at home. And, Lauk oversaw the approval of a new teacher contract that will raise faculty salaries a combined 21 percent over three years.

But during that same time, Lauk has had trouble winning the full support of the board and has had personal run-ins with at least one board member during his time in the district. And despite winning two pay raises in the past two years, the board voted 4-3 not to renew his contract last fall.

At the same time, the school board itself has experienced turmoil. In July, the board’s vice president, Felicia Chandler resigned. Simultaneously, a candidate from the April 2005 school board election filed a lawsuit disputing the results of a write-in campaign in April 2005 that returned Humberto Andrade to the board.

The court eventually confirmed Andrade’s election to the board. But just two months later, Andrade resigned after moving out of the district.

Lauk said that he leaves District 103 with a fondness for the people he’s worked with during his time here.

“I’ve never worked with as good a staff, as talented a staff as District 103,” Lauk said. “There are people here who work miracles every day, and I won’t find a more caring, dedicated staff anywhere.”