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D92: Public voices concern over superintendent’s contract not being renewed

Dozens flocked to a meeting of the Will County School District 92 School Board Dec. 19, with word spreading of a recent statement sent to District staff communicating a decision not to renew Superintendent Peter Sullivan’s contract.

There was standing room only for many of those on hand, and several waited outside the Administration Center’s board room to hear the business of the board.

Members of the crowd were drawn to the Administration Center, though no discussion of the superintendent’s contract was listed on the Board of Education’s agenda.

Sullivan sent out a statement to district staff Nov. 17 via email, saying in part, “[D92 School Board President ]Mike Messina and I wanted to share with the District 92 community, faculty and staff that I will not be returning as Superintendent at the end of this school year. After lengthy discussions, the decision has been made to not extend my contract beyond June 30, 2018.”

The spreading of the statement drew a showing of support from faculty members and parents, as well as some backlash for not communicating to the public why the superintendent’s contract will not be renewed. Messina said he could not provide comment on the matter and referred constituents to take note of the superintendent’s statement.

The parents and teachers at the meeting were skeptical of what the Board of Education and its superintendent were not sharing. Attendee Jamie Reposh was motivated to come out for the meeting as a parent of the District.

“We would like to retain [Sullivan,]” she said. “We would also like to just basically know the reason why [his contract won’t be extended.]”

Reposh presented the Board of Education with a petition in support of the superintendent that contained about 200 signatures from the District’s parents and families. Reposh was not alone in heaping praise for the superintendent and his track record.

“I support Dr. Sullivan, as well,” said Nora Skentzos, president of the District’s Parent Faculty Association. “I don’t work for Dr. Sullivan, but if you look at all the things that are going on in districts locally—anyone can Google—but any superintendent that’s been let go or dismissed in the last five to six years in the area, you’re looking at misconduct issues, you’re looking at possible money fraud, you’re looking at taxpayers having to pay severance packages, all these different things. You can Google any newspaper and find all those things. When you open Pandora’s box, you have to be careful of what you’re going to get. So, I have a concern there.”

Skentzos said people will find nothing but positive things when they conduct a Google search of District 92.

“I think it’s important that after everyone speaks today maybe the board has some type of community forum to hear why people want what they want,” she said.

In the email statement, the board thanked Sullivan for his contributions to the district and wished him well in the future, and said the process of hiring a new superintendent will be started in the coming weeks.

“On a personal note, I would like to share that it has been a true honor to work with so many wonderful members of the District 92 community. I am very proud of the collective efforts that have occurred over the past four years that have impacted the lives of our students,” Sullivan stated in the email.

School funding formula update

Also during the meeting, Sullivan took time to clear up some misinformation in respect to the State of Illinois’ new evidence-based funding formula.

The measure is meant to ensure that schools are more equitably funded, allotting new money toward districts that exhibit gaps in meeting the needs of students.

“With the recent passage of legislation, which changed the way in which schools are funded in the State, there’s a sense by some that all schools are going to get additional funding, which certainly isn’t the case for our District, which is already 89 percent reliant on local property taxes,” Sullivan said. “We will continue to monitor this, and we’ll keep the board informed of any potential legislation when the House and Senate reconvene in January, and we’ll make sure they continue to make sure that the perspective of our District and our community is understood by our local legislators.”

Sullivan wanted to thank Rep. John Connor, State Sen. John Curran, House Leader Jim Durkin and State Sen. Pat McGuire for taking time to speak with him and other representatives for the District.

Impact fee reductions discussed

Sullivan also made mention of the City of Lockport’s recent decision to reduce school facilities impact fees by 80 percent.

The Lockport City Council’s action is meant to curve the amount of fees issued to school districts to offset the impact of new growth in meeting students’ needs.

Representatives from Homer Community Consolidated School District 33C, Lockport Township High School District 205 and Will County School District 92 met with Lockport Mayor Steven Streit to find out that the City is looking at an 80-90 percent reduction in the fees. The three school districts had come together following that meeting and submitted a letter requesting a 40 percent decrease.

“We certainly understand the desire to make sure that the impact fees are at a comparable level to neighboring communities and we want to be good partners with the City, but the level which they were talking about dropping them could have some implications, not just now but longer term,” Sullivan said. “But, if we were to face a situation were we to have a large housing boom, that’s what we worry about, not just now but the future.”

Earlier this month, the Lockport City Council came to a consensus to approve an 80 percent reduction in school facilities impact fees, effective July 1, 2018.

“This is something we’ll be looking toward with the next financial year,” Sullivan said.

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