The first choice for the job of superintendent at Lyons School District 103 turned down the school board’s job offer last week and will become the superintendent of another school district.
“I was very disappointed because I really liked the candidate,” said school board President Marge Hubacek.
The political divisions in Lyons District 103 played a major role in the candidate’s decision to turn down the job. After the man turned down the district’s job offer on Jan. 22, Co-interim Superintendent Patrick Patt asked him why.
The candidate sent a short email to Patt with his explanation, which Patt read at the school board’s Jan. 28 meeting.
“My decision to go with the other district was based on the past political nature in Lyons and the upcoming spring election of the Lyons school board positions,” the top choice wrote.
Control of the school board is at stake in April. If candidates backed by Lyons Village President Christopher Getty sweep all four seats, they would become the majority.
“The reason he turned it down was because of the politics, and most of all, the upcoming election,” Hubacek said. “Nobody can guarantee the outcome.”
The candidate who turned the job down was one of two finalists that the board interviewed for the second time two weeks ago. Another finalist declined the final interview.
The Landmark has learned that the board interviewed former District 103 curriculum director Kelly Baas, who is now the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Westchester School District 92.5. Baas resigned from her job in District 103 to take her current position in 2016.
However, Baas is not believed to be one of the board’s two current final choices.
The school board last week interviewed one person who was identified as a finalist. The other finalist was one of the eight semifinalists the board had interviewed in December.
The two new finalists were slated to tour the district and meet with separate committees of teachers and staff, administrators and parents this week. Those three committees will give their feedback to the board.
Hubacek said she was impressed by both candidates and said that she expects the board to make a decision and extend another job offer very soon.
“We have two good candidates,” Hubacek said.
While reading the email from the person who turned down the job, Patt referred to incumbents Jorge Torres and Michael Bennett by name, asking them to take note of the top choice’s reasoning.
Bennett and Torres were backed by Getty in 2015 when they were elected to the school board. Bennett was president of the board until the majority flipped again in 2017.
Patt said that political interference is causing the district to lose out on good candidates and that good employees will leave the district if politics interferes with the running of the schools.
Asked about Patt’s comments after the meeting, Bennett had a succinct response.
“I am just tired of the grandstanding, that’s all,” Bennett said.
According to Patt and Hubacek, Bennett, whose wife recently had a baby, had not attended any of the interviews with superintendent candidates until last week when he attended the interviews with the two new finalists.
In response to a question from Patt, Torres acknowledged that he had liked the candidate who turned the job town. Coming back from closed session Torres and Patt had a brief exchange.
“I don’t like being called a liar,” Torres told Patt. “That shows disrespect.”
After the meeting, Patt told the Landmark the he believes Torres gave a television station false information about how long administrators had known that a George Washington Middle School teacher hired last summer had been charged with attempted murder.
Patt said that the teacher, Andres Rodriguez, was placed on administrative leave the day after administrators learned he was facing criminal charges.
In his superintendent’s report, Patt also called out state Sen. Martin Sandoval who publicly had called on Patt and fellow Co-interim Superintendent Robert Madonia to resign in the wake of the hiring of Rodriguez.
Sandoval did so at a packed school board meeting on Oct. 22. In his public comment Sandoval said that he would introduce legislation in the Illinois General Assembly to make it easier for school districts to find out when teachers and other job applicants are facing criminal charges.
Thus far, Patt said, it didn’t appear that Sandoval had done much to fulfill his promise.
“Not a thing has happened legislatively,” Patt said. “If you want to say you’re going to do something, then make it happen.”