Four board members-elect to the Lyons-Brookfield District 103 school board who had planned on taking control of the board Thursday night will have to wait until Monday to take their seats at the table.
That’s because on Thursday night Michael Bennett, Coleen Shipbaugh, Katie Broderick and Jorge Torres found themselves locked out of the D103 administration building, where they’d called a special meeting of the school board to fire the district’s law firm and replace the co-superintendents hired by the school board in April after the retirement of Superintendent Mary Jo Vladika.
Burt Odelson, who is serving as the attorney for the four board members-elect and whose firm will be hired as the school board’s legal counsel after the new board is organized, told the Landmark that he personally swore in the four board members-elect at Lyons Village Hall on Tuesday.
Asked how the agenda for Thursday’s purported special meeting was crafted, Odelson said the board members-elect discussed what was to be on the agenda prior to being sworn in.
Unable to hold the meeting Thursday, the new board members will be seated at a meeting that has been called for Monday, May 4 at 7 p.m. at the district’s main office, 4100 Joliet Ave. in Lyons.
At that meeting, officers of the board will be elected, and it appears that the slate of four candidates elected on April 7 will choose Bennett as president. He was the only one of the four to speak to a crowd of about 40 supporters outside the district office Thursday night.
But the new majority won’t be able to enact the changes they seek on Monday. They’ll have to call for a special meeting, which likely will happen sometime next week.
All four candidates were introduced to the crowd by Lyons Village President Christopher Getty, who served essentially as the master of ceremonies for what took place Thursday night. Getty supported the four candidates, who ran as a slate under the name Parents for Student Excellence, and contributed at least $11,000 to their political committee to pay for campaign materials.
“I’ve taken a very active approach to getting involved to better our schools,” Getty said. “We’re essentially looking to make positive changes in the school district and we’re looking to improve the schools.”
Asked why the four board members-elect didn’t just wait until Monday to begin implementing their agenda, Getty said it was to prevent the present board from making any more changes or hire more staff.
“They had three meetings since the election,” Getty said. “They rushed in putting in a new principal; they rushed to put in two superintendents; they’re making as many changes as they possibly can to essentially protect people or hide things — we’re not sure— and it’s got to come to a stop at some point. The old board’s got to let go.”
Odelson characterized his clients’ actions to force a meeting Thursday as attempting to reverse illegal action taken by the present board.
The school board hired a couple of retired veteran school administrators, Patrick Patt and Griff Powell, to split superintendent duties in the absence of Vladika, who is being paid through the end of the school year, June 30.
Patt and Powell, who are being paid $800 per day, started work April 22, though they have not worked every day. According to Patt, between the two of them they’ve submitted an invoice for five days of work.
“The statute says there’s only one superintendent, not three,” Odelson said. “They got one sitting at home, who they’re paying, and two here.”
The incoming board members plan to hire Kyle Hastings as interim superintendent. It’s unclear when Hastings will begin his duties, but Odelson said, “Kyle won’t start until she’s gone because you can’t have two superintendents.”
Hastings, a well-known Cook County political operative, serves as village president of Orland Hills, but has managed to land several administrative positions at school districts through the years, not always with success.
He retired at the end of the 2013-14 school year as assistant superintendent of human resources at Bloom Township High School District 206, a job he had held since 2011. He got that job about a year after the school board of Bellwood Elementary School District 88 terminated him as their superintendent after two and a half years on the job.
At the time, a District 88 school board member was quoted by the Chicago Tribune as saying Hastings didn’t communicate well and showed “a lack of respect” to staff and school board members.
Hastings also came under fire in 2006 while he was serving as director of auxiliary programs at Proviso Township High School District 209. As part of his job, Hastings oversaw the summer school program, which he moved to Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park, without notifying police, who had to scramble to react to incidents at dismissal time. His contract for that job was not renewed.
Where Hastings goes, Odelson can often be found. Odelson and Sterk is the law firm representing Orland Hills, where Hastings is president. The firm was also on board at Proviso District 209 when Hastings was there.
Since 2001, Odelson and Sterk has contributed more than $28,000 to two political committees associated with Hastings.