Officials approve administrator contract in split vote
New Lenox School District 122 will have a new director of organizational planning and facilities, beginning Feb. 1.
The Board of Education took action Jan. 17 at its regular meeting to extend Jason Sterritt a multi-year contract through 2019.
He is set to replace Bob Nelson, as he looks to step down from the position in June.
A committee was formed to locate someone to fill the role and offer its recommendation to the Board of Education.
Several officials lauded the superintendent’s selection and went on to say that they have trust in her judgment to bring forward a candidate for consideration of employment.
Board Member Michele Degroot Rosenfeld shared a differing view of the contract and prefaced her comments, stating that the problem she has is nothing personal.
“We’re accepting recommendations, and we need to have someone in place who has extensive knowledge, qualifications, and experience in the construction industry,” she said. “My personal preference for this position is more of a focus on the background in construction and less of an emphasis on administrative experience because the construction part is where we most need help in making sure that the recommendations are the right ones or saying they’re not appropriate, they’re not needed at this time.”
Board Member Phil Adair agreed.
“My first apprehension was again on the more technical side of the business and being versed in all the disciplines that a manager would have,” he said.
District 122’s director of organizational planning and facilities commonly works with representatives for Legat Architects, a Chicago-based architecture and interior design firm, to identify and assess what needs to be done to school facilities.
Degroot Rosenfeld said it is vital that the board gets the right person to assume this role.
“Legat [Architects] is obviously incentivized to have a lot of maintenance because that’s how they make their money,” she said. “They make essentially a commission off of however much work we do, and the fact that that is the way the incentives are makes it critically important that the person that we have … in place [is there] to protect the interest of the school district, to protect the interest of our financial situation, to protect board members.”
Manville clarified Degroot Rosenfeld's comment about Legat Architects in an email to The Patriot.
"The District’s capital projects and maintenance chart, which Mrs. Rosenfeld discussed, is not designed by Legat Architects," she said. "It is designed by the Administrative Cabinet which includes the Superintendent, Business Manager, and the Director of Organizational Planning and Facilities. Once our team determines the needs of the District, we then utilize Legat, our architects, and ICI, our construction manager firm, to review our findings and determine a cost for our projects. Then the Cabinet determines the final projects and costs prior to making the recommendations to the Board."
District 122 has identified $53.7 million of capital project improvements to complete through 10 years.
Degroot Rosenfeld urged the Board of Education to extend its search and said more time is necessary to find the best-fit candidate.
Board Secretary Nicole Swallow questioned if another search would net a better applicant pool and said she trusts Superintendent Peggy Manville’s judgment and her recommendation to the board.
New Lenox School District 122 received 12 applications for the job opening, and seven of the candidates were interviewed. The process of locating and vetting potential individuals to assume the role took about two-and-a-half months to complete.
Board President Bill Pender said the search committee’s selection gives the District the best of both worlds, in terms of experience and knowledge.
In a 5-2 vote, the Board of Education came to a consensus authorizing the approval of a multi-year contract valued at $125,000 next year, after which point every other administrator contract within District 122 will be in talks for renegotiation.
Also at the meeting, the school board moved to unanimously approve an administrator contract to Mary Zastro, Bentley School’s new principal.
The District decided to appoint Zastro to fill the position vacancy.
The administrator contract, as presented, runs through June 30, 2019 and is valued at $92,338 next year.
Zastro has served District 122 in various capacities since 1999.
Round it up
A brief recap of action and discussion of the New Lenox School District 122 Board of Education meeting Jan. 17:
Officials authorized the District’s superintendent and business manager to prepare the 2018-2019 budget in tentative form. This information will be presented to the school board at its August meeting.