How badly did former Director of Technology Vern Bettis want to leave Riverside Elementary School District 96? Badly enough to accept a new job with another school district that pays him $25,000 less than he was making at District 96.

How anxious was he to leave? Bettis handed in his resignation letter on Jan. 15 and left District 96 the very same day. The next day Bettis began work as the director of technology at Tinley Park-based Community Consolidated School District 146. On Jan. 14 the District 146 Board of Education voted unanimously to hire Bettis with an annual salary of $90,000.

At last week’s District 96 school board meeting, the Board of Education voted 6 to 0 to officially accept Bettis’ resignation and approved a mutual release of claims agreement between Bettis and District 96.

In the mutual release of claims, Bettis agreed to give up any right to sue the district for age discrimination or for any reason. District 96 agreed not to pursue any possible claims against Bettis for professional misconduct. 

Under the agreement Bettis will be paid for 11 unused vacation days that he had accumulated.

Bettis left District 96 just six and a half months after the new administration led by Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis took over. By September it was apparent that Sharma-Lewis and Director of Finance and Operations Zack Zayed, Bettis’ immediate superior, didn’t believe Bettis had a future in the district.

Zayed and the other new member of the district administration, Director of Academic Excellence Brian Ganan, criticized the district’s technology infrastructure and the implementation of its Laptops for Learning program. Sharma-Lewis and the school board were surprised last summer by a bill for approximately $426,000 from Apple, which included new laptops for the incoming fifth-graders among a wide array of purchases. 

Bettis was quickly frozen out by the new administration. According to numerous sources Bettis was not invited to meetings to discuss the district’s technology problems. 

In a press release issued by District 146, Bettis said that he was impressed with his new district.

“The people I met in District 146 during my interview process were quite impressive,” Bettis said in the press release. “They possessed a vision of growth similar to mine and a desire and willingness to introduce new technology into the classroom.”

Bettis was hired by District 96 in 2006 as its first technology director. He played a large role in the implementation of the district’s one-to-one laptop program that gives an Apple laptop computer to every fifth- through eighth-grader in the district.

After the Jan. 21 school board meeting, Sharma-Lewis declined to comment about Bettis leaving District 96.

School board President Mary Rose Mangia made a few careful comments.

“I wish him well,” Mangia said. “I wish him luck. It is what it is.”