The Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 Board of Education approved hiring a pair of key administrators at a special meeting on Aug. 1, but not without controversy, leaving some parents and school board members frustrated.

Part of that frustration from school board members stems from the fact that they still have not been able to vote on candidates for other two key positions – human resources director and business manager — that have been open for months. 

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m tired of looking like a fool,” said school board member Marge Hubacek, who complained again about school board President Jorge Torres blocking recommendations from coming to the table for a vote.

“Once again I’m going to say, being the board president is not a dictatorship,” Hubacek said.

At the school board’s last meeting, Torres said he had asked for delays on votes for some positions because he wanted “to make sure the people we hire doesn’t end up being someone that will try to kill someone else or anything like that.”

However, when it came time to hire Colleen Bergren as the District 103’s student services director, who oversees special education programming, Torres voted to do so pending a criminal background check that had not yet been completed.

The vote to hire Bergren was 4-2, with Hubacek and Sharon Anderson voting against. Anderson questioned whether it was appropriate to approve Bergen with an incomplete background check.

Hubacek, meanwhile, questioned Bergren’s qualifications for the job, saying Bergren lacked experience in special education and did not have the appropriate certifications.

“I’m not voting for someone who doesn’t have the right certification, and we wouldn’t do it for a teacher, we wouldn’t do it for an administrator,” Hubacek said. “I’m sorry about Colleen, she seems like a wonderful person.”

 Bergren, who will be paid $115,000, comes to District 103 from the Hammond, Indiana, school system where she and District 103 Superintendent Kristopher Rivera worked side by side. When Rivera was principal of Scott Middle School in Hammond, Bergren served as his assistant principal.

She later succeeded Rivera as principal of Scott Middle School when Rivera moved up to assistant superintendent for human resources.

Rivera said in an interview that Bergren was the top choice of a district hiring committee that considered five candidates for the job. Despite her lack of official certification, Rivera added, Bergren had handled special education duties at Scott Middle School as both assistant principal and principal. 

She also led the multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) – intervention programs to help students struggling academically or with behavioral issues — at the Hammond school, Rivera said.

Her contract in District 103 will be amended, said Rivera, to require Bergren to obtain special education certification.

“She has a strong work ethic and is hugely intelligent,” Rivera said.

The vote to hire Garrett Lefferson as principal of Robinson School in Lyons was unanimous.

Lefferson comes to District 103 after serving for the last four years as a principal of Mercer County Middle School in Mercer County School District 404 in Aledo, a town in far west Illinois, about 30 miles south of Rock Island.

His starting salary at Robinson School in Lyons is $90,000.

As for the vacant HR and business manager positions, Rivera said he is hoping to bring recommendations to the school board at the Aug, 13 meeting or at a special meeting shortly thereafter.

Rivera said he may convene a new, smaller hiring committee to fast-track a new interview process for those positions. While Rivera has an HR background, he said he’d like to get a business manager on board as soon as possible.

Baker settlement agreement delayed

A settlement agreement between Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 and former Superintendent Carol Baker that would have paid her for additional vacation and sick time she reportedly is claiming was tabled by a vote of 5-1 at the Aug. 1 special meeting of the school board.

School board President Jorge Torres was the only one casting a vote against tabling the agreement, whose details are not known publicly at this time.

Baker, who was superintendent in District 103 for two years, resigned in July 2017 to take a position as assistant superintendent for academics with Hinsdale High School District 86.

She was entering the final year of her contract in District 103. In fact, she continued working for about a month during school year 2018-19.

Baker left the district just after an election had ousted the board majority that had hired her from power. Now that majority has regained control of the school board.

Bob Uphues