The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is seeking to levy $20,000 in fines against Lyons-Brookfield Elementary School District 103 for violating record-keeping laws relating to asbestos in school buildings.
The alleged violations do not refer directly to a February incident in which District 103 Maintenance Director Ryan Grace and others allegedly performed work in the district’s administration building that may have dislodged asbestos. The IDPH’s notice of intent to assess the fine does reference improper removal of “asbestos containing transite ceiling materials from inside the maintenance building,” but not the administration building.
After meeting in closed session with a lawyer for two hours on July 24, the District 103 school board deferred voting on whether to hire an engineering firm to prepare a response to the IDPH’s allegations and to become compliant with rules and regulations about asbestos-related record keeping.
Instead, the school board will hold a special meeting on Aug. 1 to consider whether to hire K-Plus Engineering Services to assist the district in preparing a response to the IDPH’s allegations.
K-Plus until at least the end of 2015 was owned by Terrence “Terry” O’Brien, the former president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board. O’Brien was also an unsuccessful candidate for Cook County Board president in the 2010 Democratic primary.
In 2016, K-Plus donated $500 to the political committee of Lyons Village President Christopher Getty, and in 2015 donated $200 to Getty’s United Citizens Party. K-Plus has made numerous other contributions to other state and local politicians.
The IDPH’s Notice of Intent to Assess a Civil Penalty alleged that the district had 20 violations that can be penalized with a civil penalty of $1,000 each.
The district will have a hearing before an administrative law judge who will rule on the IDPH’s complaint.
“It’s just been set for hearing at this point,” said Catie Locallo, a lawyer representing the district.
The complaint was received by the district on May 30, but school board president Marge Hubacek said that she was not made aware of the complaint until mid-June and she said she was not informed by Superintendent Carol Baker of the complaint.
“I didn’t hear about it for, I would say, two weeks,” Hubacek said.
Hubacek said the letter was addressed to former school board President Michael Bennett, who by then was no longer school board president but was still a member of the school board.
Baker said she forwarded the notice to the school district’s attorney immediately after receiving it.
“As soon as I saw the letter I shared it with the attorney,” Baker said.
Two more administrators leave
Curriculum Director Natacia Campbell and Technology Director John Williamsen are resigning their positions.
Campbell, who has been with the district for just over one year is leaving to become the director of human resources for Joliet Elementary School District 64.
“I had some really wonderful experiences,” Campbell said of her year at District 103. “I just finished analyzing the PARCC data, and we really had some good growth and I’m hoping we’ll be able to continue.”
Baker said it would be hard to replace Campbell, a former high school science teacher and curriculum director who knew Baker from their time as committee members working on Next Generation Science Standards.
“She really cared about our kids and I’m sad about her leaving,” Baker said.
Campbell, who this spring seemed a bit stunned by the vitriol in the district, said that she thinks District 103 is headed in the right direction.
“I think the school district and school board are going in the right direction,” Campbell said. “I’m just hoping that they continue on that path and stay out of the weeds of the drama.”
Campbell had a forum with parents this spring to discuss Title I plans and many parents came away impressed with Campbell.
“I think she is going to be missed,” said Krystal Steiner, who served as vice president of the Lincoln School PTA last year. “I am going to miss her, because she’s done a really great job.”
During the school board campaign earlier this year, Williamsen was criticized as unqualified by the winning trio of Hubacek, Shannon Johnson, and Sharon Anderson.
Although Williamsen just received a new one-year contract, he has decided to move on. Williamsen, who came to District 103 two years ago, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Baker indicated that she wasn’t surprised by the administrators’ decisions to leave, however.
“I think that both of them felt unsupported by the current board, and I think both of them felt like this was the message the board was sending them,” Baker said.