Lyons-Brookfield Elementary School District 103 will not have to plan a going-away party for Kyle Hastings after the interim superintendent was given a four-year contract as assistant superintendent by the school board at its Feb. 25 meeting at Edison School in Stickney.

The district does not currently employ an assistant superintendent.

Hastings’ contract extension and new job title were approved by a 4 to 2 vote, with Michael Bennett, Jorge Torres, Katie Broderick and Coleen Shipbaugh voting in favor and Joanne Schaeffer and Sharon Anderson voting against. Mark Camasta did not attend the meeting.

Bennett, Torres, Broderick and Shipbaugh have formed a voting block since being elected in April with the backing of Lyons Village President Christopher Getty. Although the board generally agrees on mundane matters, decisions on controversial issues are generally split with the Getty-backed quartet in the majority.

In addition, Hastings reportedly will work 100 days per year at a salary of $1,000 per day. That’s an increase in salary for the soon-to-be assistant superintendent, who currently makes $900 per day as the district’s top education official.

The 100-day provision in Hastings’ new contract allows him to remain a part-time employee and maintains his official employment status as “retired.” That allows Hastings to continue collecting the two state pensions to which he is entitled.

According to the Better Government Association’s pension database, in 2015 Hastings collected almost $52,000 from the Teachers Retirement System. He also collects a small pension from the State University Retirement System.

No board member commented prior to the vote, although it followed a two-and-a-half hour closed session that reportedly was contentious.

In explaining her vote after the meeting, Schaeffer expressed concerns about the additional salary and whether the action sets up the hiring of an inexperienced educator as superintendent.

“My opinion is the reason for creating the assistant superintendent is to bring in somebody they know with no experience,” she said, referring to the Getty-backed quartet. “I believe it will be obvious when we get the list of six candidates.”

The school board is using the Illinois Association of School Boards in its search for a new superintendent. Hastings has been serving as interim superintendent since May. The district’s last superintendent, Mary Jo Vladika, retired in March 2015. The deadline for applying for the position is Friday. 

According to Alan Molby of the IASB, he and two other IASB consultants will review all applications, conduct limited background checks, contact at least one reference and present to the board a list of six candidates to be interviewed. 

The IASB recommendations will be submitted prior to the school board’s March 10 committee of the whole meeting with the intent to review and discuss in a closed session that evening.

“Our district has been floundering for five years,” Schaeffer said. “We need a strong superintendent with experience.”

Hastings contends that his salary will not be additional spending, explaining that the position held by Jason Gold, who will be leaving the district to become principal of Komarek School in North Riverside, will not be refilled. Gold’s title is coordinator of ELA and math initiatives and teacher/principal retention and development.

Hastings said Gold’s salary of $91,000 plus additional reductions in the central office will result in a total $125,000 in reductions. Hastings said he will take on Gold’s former responsibilities, assist the new superintendent, help with human resources and perform other additional duties.

“I am honored to be asked to stay,” he said, adding that he turned down offers from other school districts to remain at District 103. “I want to give consistency with the administration at District 103. I’m very excited. It’s a great district.”

Hastings also countered critics of his current salary of $900 per day, claiming that his tenure at District 103 has actually saved the district between $60,000 and $80,000. 

He also listed a series of achievements accomplished during his tenure as interim superintendent, including untangling the issues resulting from the switch to Skyward accounting system; restoring the district’s levy to the proper amount, which followed a tax levy error by the previous administration that led to a shortfall of approximately $1.5 million in property tax revenue; obtaining audits, which prevented the threatened loss of federal funds and placement on the State of Illinois financial watch list; and working with the LaGrange Area Department of Special Education to prevent the threatened loss of federal funds to LADSE and its feeder school districts.  

Law firm gets raise

Also on Feb. 25, the school board accepted without comment a fee increase from Odelson and Sterk, the district’s law firm, to $185 per hour from the former rate of $175 per hour.

 The vote was 4 to 1 with Bennett, Torres, Broderick and Shipbaugh voting in favor and Schaeffer voting against. Anderson abstained.

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