The exodus of administrators with ties to former Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson continued this week at Riverside Elementary School District 96 with the sudden resignation of Vern Bettis, the district’s director of technology.
Bettis resigned on Wednesday and then started his new job as director of technology at Tinley Park-based Community Consolidated School District 146 on Thursday morning. Bettis was officially hired by the District 146 school board at their meeting Tuesday night.
District 146 Superintendent Jeff Stawick and district spokeswoman Linda Zec did not return messages left for them asking to confirm the hire and to comment about Bettis.
District 96 officials would not confirm Bettis’ resignation. Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis did not return emails or a phone message asking if Bettis had resigned or for comment.
School board president Mary Rose Mangia also would not confirm that Bettis had resigned when she was contacted by the Landmark on Thursday morning.
“I just don’t have anything to say,” Mangia said.
But the Landmark reached Bettis by phone in his new office at District 146 on Thursday morning. Asked about his decision to leave District 96, Bettis said the new job “was just an opportunity.” He stated he interviewed for the position in December.
Asked why he decided to leave District 96 immediately, Bettis said, “Because that’s when the opportunity was.”
Bettis’ departure was not unexpected. Last summer school board members and the new administration, led by Sharma-Lewis, were surprised by a $426,584 bill from Apple Inc. for computers and other equipment. Then in September when Director of Academic Excellence Brian Ganan and Director of Operations Zack Zayed, Bettis’s new immediate supervisor, criticized the district’s technology infrastructure and the implementation of its one-to-one laptop program, it was apparent that Bettis was on his way out.
Under Lamberson, Bettis was at every school board meeting along with other administrators, but he did not attend a single school board meeting after Sharma-Lewis took over.
Instead Bettis’s subordinate, Technology Systems Specialist Matthew Ahlenius, began attending school board meetings to make sure that the technology at meetings was working right. Sharma-Lewis last November publicly told the board that she wanted to hire a “hands-on technology manager.”
In any case, it was clear to all that Bettis would not be working for District 96 after his one-year contract expired on June 30.
Bettis was hired by District 96 in 2006 at the same time as Special Education Director Mary Polk, who resigned her post late in 2013.
Bob Uphues contributed to this report.