The Lyons-Brookfield Elementary School District 103 Board of Education in February voted 4 to 2 to hire a longtime former public school administrator as a hearing officer to preside over hearings for student discipline cases of middle school students.
Appointed to the newly created post was Robert Libka, who is presently employed as the principal of the school at Trinity Lutheran Church in Roselle.
Libka reportedly is to be paid $150 per hour for his services, which according to a District 103 school board resolution obtained by the Landmark through a Freedom of Information request include “hear[ing] expulsion hearings and requested suspension hearings for students in grades 6 through 8.”
The Landmark had filed a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the resolution on Feb. 26, the day after the school board voted to hire a hearing officer. The district emailed a copy of the resolution to the Landmark on April 1 after the newspaper filed a complaint over the district’s failure to respond to the FOIA request with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
Prior to Libka’s hiring, the district generally did not use an independent hearing officer to take on student discipline cases. According to Joanne Schaeffer, who has served on the District 103 school board for more than 20 years, the school board itself tackled student discipline hearings.
Libka and District 103 Interim Superintendent Kyle Hastings have worked together in the past. Both were employed in the early 2000s by Proviso Township High School District 209.
Starting as a teacher in District 209 in 1999, Libka was that district’s director of auxiliary programs in July 2005 when he was hired to be interim superintendent after the school board fired its superintendent.
On the same day Libka was elevated to interim superintendent, the District 209 school board hired Hastings, a physical education teacher and athletic director at Proviso West High School, to take on Libka’s former position as director of auxiliary programs.
Libka was later removed as interim superintendent because he wasn’t properly certified by the state for that job, and was reclassified as an assistant superintendent.
He resigned as assistant superintendent in 2007 after allegations surfaced that as an interim employee he had billed taxpayers more than $10,000 to attend classes at Western Illinois University. While waiting for his resignation to become effective at the end of the 2006-07 school year, Libka told the Forest Park Review, “I don’t, without any hesitation, believe that I violated the law or even the spirit of it.”
After another District 209 superintendent resigned under fire later in 2007, Libka again was hired as interim superintendent and later had the interim tag removed by the school board. But his contract wasn’t renewed after the 2007-08 school year. Hastings also left District 209 at the end of the 2007-08 school year.