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In April, Riverside-Brookfield High School Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann agreed to resign his position on June 30. Last week just seven days before his resignation was to become effective Baldermann abruptly resigned again.
This time his resignation was effective immediately. Baldermann and school board members are not talking about why he resigned on the eve of a school board meeting or whether the school board was about to seek his immediate termination or suspension if he did not resign.
The school board voted unanimously to accept Baldermann’s resignation just after midnight on June 24 after a lengthy closed session at which the board’s lawyer Todd Faulkner was present for more than an hour.
School board president Jim Marciniak refused to comment on any of the reasons behind Baldermann’s resignation.
“I really can’t comment on this and don’t want to comment on this, because we’re getting into personnel issues which are properly held in confidence,” Marciniak said. “Even though we could speak about it, to do so would be irresponsible and counterproductive to the district.”
Baldermann responded to a request from the Landmark for comment about his resignation by sending an e-mail that did not give any reason for his resignation. He did not answer a series of specific questions from the Landmark.
By resigning, Baldermann lost valuable benefits that were due him according to the agreement he entered into with the district in April. Under that agreement Baldermann was to have been paid a minimum of $9,040 for consulting services that he was to provide to RB. The district also agreed to provide district-paid health insurance for Baldermann and his family for up to a year.
On the afternoon of June 23, Baldermann sent an e-mail to Mary Ann Nardi, the secretary to the school board, saying that he was resigning that day effective at 5 p.m. Baldermann wrote that he would not seek any compensation for consulting as outlined his April resignation agreement.
He also wrote that he was “proud to have served as a leader of the RB team during a time of growth and improvement.” Baldermann asked Nardi to forward the email to school board members at 3 o’clock that afternoon.
But, apparently, that e-mail wasn’t enough because at around 5:30 p.m. that afternoon Baldermann came to RB and gave David Bonnette, who became interim superintendent of District 208 today, a two-paragraph, hand-written letter of resignation that specifically surrendered any claim to the health insurance benefits outlined in the April 5 resignation agreement and surrendered any right to work as consultant for RB.
“It was delivered personally to me,” Bonnette said. No words were exchanged between the two men, Bonnette said.
School board members were tight-lipped about Baldermann’s resignation, referring all questions about the circumstances leading up to Baldermann’s resignation to Marciniak.
“The school board president put a gag order on everybody,” said board member Larry Herbst on Monday.
It appears likely, however, that Baldermann’s abrupt resignation was related to his participation in a conference in Texas that he attended from June 17 through June 19.
For the past few years Baldermann has done consulting work for a Bloomington, Ind., based company called Solution Tree. Solution Tree put on an institute called Professional Learning Communities at Work at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Antonio, Texas from June 17-19.
According to the Solution Tree Web site Baldermann spoke at two breakout sessions at the conference.
Baldermann’s consulting work was one issue the school board looked at last summer when Baldermann was found to be having a romantic relationship with a school employee.
Some school board members were disturbed that Baldermann, whose annual salary was $243,271 this year, was spending too much time away from RB speaking, for pay, at conferences and doing other consulting work.
When Baldermann’s contract was amended last July following a two-week suspension after an outside investigator determined that he had a relationship “beyond school matters” with an RB employee, Baldermann’s amended contract included a clause that said that he needed to get “the advance written approval of the president of the board to engage in such activities.”
Marciniak refused to say whether he had given Baldermann written approval to attend and speak at, for pay, at the San Antonio conference.
“I don’t have a comment on that,” Marciniak said.
When asked about that and when asked a number of other specific questions vial e-mail about the conference, Baldermann merely responded by email saying that he did make a presentation at the conference.
“Yes, I did present at the conference,” wrote Baldermann.
Baldermann also said that he took vacation days to attend the conference, a statement confirmed by Bonnette.
Baldermann did not answer a specific question about whether he sought or received written approval from Marciniak to participate in the conference or whether he thought he needed to do so.
Herbst said that while he was board president there were a few times where Baldermann failed to notify him of absences due to consulting work.
“He’s not obligated to tell the entire board,” Herbst said. “He is obligated to tell the board president, and there were a couple of times he didn’t and we had to talk to him about it.”
The episode marks an unusual end to Baldermann’s eight-year tenure at RB. Baldermann, an energetic charismatic leader, recruited a raft of excellent, energetic teachers to RB and raised RB’s profile to heights never seen before.
He was hand shaker and a back slapper who often stood in the hallway as a school day ended, greeting students. Baldermann implemented an Advanced Placement program in which a greater percentage of RB students take AP classes than at any other non-magnet high school in the state.
The emphasis on AP has led Newsweek magazine to rank RB as one of the top two or three high schools in the state of Illinois in the last few years. Last month Newsweek ranked RB as the third best high school in the state, using a formula, based solely on the percentage of students taking AP classes.
But this has been a painful year for Baldermann, starting last June when rumors of the affair with a RB staff member became widespread. He was suspended from his job for two weeks last summer and his contract was shortened by two years.
Things really blew up this spring when it was revealed that Baldermann had let his administrative certification lapse for nearly a year in the 2007-08 school year because it took him so long to get the Illinois State Board of Education to approve his required hours of continuing professional development.
Baldermann who has told the Landmark in previous years that he had been recruited for superintendent jobs at New Trier High School and for the large northwest suburban District 214 is now apparently looking for a job.
He did not want to discuss his future with the Landmark last week.
“I do not wish to share my future plans with you,” Baldermann said.
Herbst said in April that Baldermann was a master motivator, at least until the last couple of years.
“We called him the Pied Piper and his Magic Show,” Herbst said. “It’s a backhanded compliment, but that’s what he is.”