Colleen Lieggi’s job as principal of Ames School in Riverside appears to be in jeopardy.
The Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education has called a special meeting for Thursday, March 28 at 6 p.m. at L.J. Hauser Junior High School. On the agenda is “approval of non-renewal of administrator contracts and the issuance of notices on non-renewal.” Another action item is “acceptance of resignations.”
In addition, the school board has called a special meeting for Thursday, April 4. At that meeting, school board members will consider approval of a “resignation agreement.”
Neither Lieggi nor District 96 board members could be reached for comment Wednesday morning.
In past conversations with the Landmark, school board President Mary Ellen Meindl had at least once referred to “negotiations” when asked about Lieggi’s future with District 96.
In a March 20 interview with the Landmark as part of the paper’s endorsement process, Meindl said that the board had been presented with eight options by their attorney, who was hired specifically to help the district with the matter.
“The situation will be resolved in a fair and just manner,” said Meindl. “The majority of the Ames community — staff and parents and students — support Colleen Lieggi. We need to be respectful to them.
“I don’t think one action of a person defines who they are,” Meindl added. “People make bad judgments, they make mistakes. … If [Lieggi]’s walking out, we need her to walk out with her head held high, because we need the Ames community to embrace the fact that she’s leaving and to be open to the new principal that comes in.
“If Colleen is staying we need to make sure that’s best for the Ames community, that she can continue as a respected leader.”
Lieggi’s contract with the district expires on June 30. According to Lieggi’s contract, if the district decides not to renew her contract the district must notify her in writing no later than 60 days prior to the end of the school year, which is June 11 this year.
She has been embroiled in controversy since last October when the Landmark disclosed that in 2011 she had reported allegations of sexual abuse against a part-time teacher at Ames School, a family in Riverside and her former husband. The allegations involved Lieggi’s children.
Within a couple of weeks of the allegations against the part-time teacher, who also babysat for Lieggi, the district suspended the teacher without pay and began to move to fire her, claiming the teacher had engaged in unprofessional conduct.
But the district changed course after the Riverside police found no evidence to support the allegations of sexual abuse. Ultimately, the teacher and the district reached an agreement in which the teacher resigned and agreed not to sue the district. In return, the district agreed to pay the teacher for the remainder of the school year.
For the past five months, the school board has dealt with the outcry over the issue. The school board met with Lieggi in closed session in January. More recently, the school board met in closed session on March 14 with attorney Stanley Eisenhammer, a partner in the law firm Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn, which the district retained in January to advise it on issues relating to Lieggi and the reporting of allegations of abuse. The school board also met with Eisenhammer in closed session after its regular February board meeting.
It is possible that Lieggi could lose her job as Ames principal and remain with the district in another capacity.
In addition to voting on a resignation agreement at the April 4 meeting, the school board also is scheduled to vote on creating three new administrative positions for the district.
On July 1, Bhavna Sharma-Lewis takes over as superintendent, replacing Jonathan Lamberson, who is retiring.
The new positions are director of finance and operations, director of academic excellence and instructional specialist.
Bob Uphues contributed to this report.