The Lyons-Brookfield Elementary School District 103 Board of Education appears poised to vote at a special meeting May 31 to rescind the two-year contract extension that was given to Superintendent Carol Baker by a lame-duck school board on April 13.
A lawyer for the firm that now represents District 103 says that the school board appears to have violated the requirements of Illinois Open Meetings Act when it voted 5 to 2, without any discussion or recitation of the details, to approve a contract extension for Baker and a host of new one-year contracts for other administrators.
All the contracts approved April 13 could be rescinded Wednesday evening.
The Landmark had asked the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Bureau to review whether the manner in which the contracts were approved violated the provisions of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
The law requires that “final action shall be preceded by a public recital of that will inform the public of the business being conducted.”
Before the vote, only the titles of the positions of the people getting new contracts were read.
“It seems apparent that the board failed to present sufficient information for members of the public to know the specific items of business being conducted – in this case, more than a dozen employment contracts,” wrote Heidi Katz, a partner in the law firm Robbins Schwartz wrote in a letter sent to the attorney general’s office on May 23.
The attorney general’s office has not yet made a ruling in the case, but new school board President Marge Hubacek said she believes the school board can act May 31 based on the opinion of their law firm.
“We can rescind them based on their opinion, because their opinion is that they didn’t do it correctly,” Hubacek said.
Control of the school board changed hands on April 27 after Hubacek and Shannon Johnson were sworn in, replacing defeated incumbents Katie Broderick and Kendra Pierce.
Broderick and Pierce were among the five school board members who voted on April 13 to extend Baker’s contract to 2021 and give her some nice additional perks such as free health insurance until she turns 65 if she serves out the term of the contract and doesn’t get another job that provides health insurance.
One of the first acts of the newly constituted school board was to fire the board’s previous law firm, Odelson & Sterk, and hire Robbins Schwartz.
Sharon Anderson and Joanne Schaeffer voted against Baker’s extension on April 13 and can be expected to join Hubacek and Johnson in voting to rescind last month’s board action.
Hubacek said that she doesn’t believe the board has to wait for the attorney general’s office to make a ruling on the Landmark’s request for review.
The rules for public recitation of details prior to a board vote are not clear. Many times, school boards vote on matters without discussion and without much public recital of the issues. Often a board member will just make a motion that something be approved “as presented” in the agenda.
The agenda for the April 13 meeting merely listed administrator contracts as one item. That item encompassed contracts for 15 people. In addition to Baker’s extension, the board on April 13 approved contracts for Curriculum Director Natacia Campbell, Special Education Director Janine Gruhn, Maintenance Director Ryan Grace, Technology Director John Williamsen, all the district’s principals, two other administrators, and Charline Latronica, the assistant to the superintendent.
The board could also vote Wednesday to rescind the approval of instructional coaches and a new case manager position as well as extra-duty stipends for three case managers that were approved on April 13.
Hubacek said that the board would also schedule an evaluation for Baker, who is completing her first year a superintendent in District 103. More than 200 parents and community members have signed a no-confidence in Baker petition that was presented to the school board at its May 22 meeting.
If Baker’s contract extension is rescinded, her original contract, which runs until 2019, would remain in force.
If the contracts for other administrators are rescinded, the school board will have to move quickly, because current contracts for administrators expire on June 30.