Even though the Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 meeting on July 23 was so contentious that members couldn’t even adjourn without an argument and a split vote, Lyons-Brookfield District 103 Superintendent came away with something positive.
He’d gotten the school board to hire a new central office administrator and a school principal – a win from his perspective.
“While it was not the most smooth meeting in the world, we did get some action done that is good for the kids, that is good for the district, with some good individuals at those positions,” Superintendent Kristopher Rivera said.
However, it was only a partial victory, with several administrative jobs, including another school principal position, and several teacher jobs remaining unfilled as August approaches. The first day of school is Aug. 28.
Some board members slammed the delay in bringing the other administrative and teacher candidates to the board for a vote.
That delay, it turned out, resulted from school board President Jorge Torres asking Rivera to hold off putting forth some candidates for a vote. The school district is without a business manager, a human resources director, a principal for Robinson School in Lyons and, as of July 23, a special education director and an assistant principal at George Washington Middle School. The school district also still needs to hire fewer than 10 teachers.
Rivera stated that he had identified candidates for many of those positions by June, and was ready to present those candidates for a vote when Torres asked to take them off the agenda, even though the administration and the candidates had come to verbal agreements.
“Mr. Torres had concerns about the process and the committees involved and that selection process,” Rivera told school members on July 23.
School board member Marge Hubacek criticized Torres for interfering in a hiring process that the superintendent is responsible for and also for not keeping other school board members in the loop in seeking to delay a vote on those hires.
“When you become board president, nobody dies and makes you the dictator,” said Hubacek, who served as board president from 2017 to 2019. “It doesn’t look right. It doesn’t look like it’s above board.
“It’s ridiculous that we don’t have a full slate of administrators and it’s July 23.”
Torres said he sought to delay the hires because the interviews were largely complete before he became president after the spring election, which shifted the board’s balance of power.
“That [hiring] committee was formed before we took office, and it was composed of people we had no idea of what were they doing,” Torres said. “I didn’t understand the process, so that’s why I’m taking things very slow. And I want to make sure the people we hire doesn’t end up being someone that will try to kill someone else or anything like that.”
Torres’ statement about not hiring “someone that will try to kill someone else” was a reference to former teacher Andres Rodriguez, who was hired as a sixth-grade teacher in late August 2018 while facing attempted murder charges for a 2017 incident in Tinley Park. Rodriguez was placed on leave as soon as district officials were informed of the criminal charges. He was subsequently fired.
Because Rodriguez had not been convicted of a crime at the time of his hiring, that arrest was not flagged during a routine background check, nor was the situation apparently ever mentioned during reference checks with a prior employer.
Torres and three others elected as a slate in 2019 featured that administrative lapse prominently in their campaign as evidence of administrative incompetence during Hubacek’s time as president of the school board.
Implicit in Hubacek’s criticism of Torres inserting himself into the hiring process was a fear that Rivera was being told who to hire. However, Rivera said the candidates he wanted to recommend in June were still the ones who would be presented to the board for a vote.
“Am I being told to put somebody in? No,” Rivera told school board members on July 23.
As of Monday, school board members had tentatively agreed to convene a special meeting on Aug. 1 at 6 p.m. in order to consider hiring candidates for the Robinson principal job, HR director and business manager in addition to a handful of teachers.