A new law firm is now representing Riverside Elementary School District 96. At its April board meeting, the District 96 school board voted 5 to 0 to hire the law firm of Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn to represent the district, replacing its former longtime law firm of Scariano, Himes and Petrarca.

“Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn performed very well in the discussion process,” said school board Vice President Art Perry. “The way they’re organized seem to work out very well for our needs. We had already engaged them to do some work for us negotiating administrator contracts and things in the transition period. We were very happy with them.”

The switch of law firms was no surprise. Board members signaled in February that they were exploring new law firms in the wake of the death of Tony Scariano, the lawyer who had been the lead counsel for the District 96 for about 20 years.

Board members also were upset at the way Scariano, Himes and Petrarca handled matters relating to the resignation of part-time gifted teacher Susan Battersby in 2011. Indications that name partner Justino Petrarca apparently had some sort of personal relationship with Ames School principal Colleen Lieggi also disturbed board members.

“There were some concerns about how those issues were handled,” Perry said.

The school board retained Hodges, Loizzi on a supplemental basis in January. Partner Stanley Eisenhammer handled the negotiations with Lieggi, which led to her resignation in March.

“We felt that they handled that very professionally and in the best interest of our district,” said school board member David Kodama.

The school board also interviewed the firm Robbins, Schwartz.

Before voting to hire the new firm, the school board invited the three incoming board members who were elected on April 9 to meet in closed session to make sure the new board members, who took office on May 7, were comfortable with the choice and process.

“I’m glad they invited us in,” said Rachel Marrello, who was the leading vote-getter in the election. “They did seek our input. Honestly, my biggest priority with the law firm was to terminate Petrarca sooner than later.”

Hodges, Loizzi is a 33-attorney firm that specializes in representing school districts and other units of local government. It has offices in Arlington Heights, O’Fallon and Peoria. The firm until 2009 represented the village of Riverside.

“Hodges, Loizzi definitely brings a breadth and depth in the area of education that I really greatly appreciated, especially in terms of special education. They definitely demonstrated an understanding of our vision for special education and how important it is in terms of achieving the mission of our district for all our students so that was definitely a key factor,” Kodama said. “They had a good strength in all area that we must deal with in terms of what issues the district needs to address.”

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