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School Board Takes First Steps in Superintendent Search

500 signatures are presented to District 109 members concerned about the hiring process; search firm lays out practice

Those hoping for an era of peace and tranquility in the Deerfield school system are going to have to hold on for a little while.

That’s because the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 School Board received petitions with approximately 500 signatures expressing a lack of confidence in their ability to hire a new superintendent.

At Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting of the Board, Mara Meyer spoke on behalf of a five person committee concerned about hiring decisions of the board in the past. Meyer would love to have confidence with the board. “But because of past practices we don’t,” she said.

She then handed over the petitions and promised more signatures would be forthcoming.

, an occasional Patch commenter and her colleagues would like to see the decision of a new superintendent pushed back until after the April 2013 election of the next school board.

But Board President Ellen London said the process will continue. “This is our job,” she said at the conclusion of the three hour meeting.  “We’ve been elected to do this job and this is one of the most important things a school board does and we are going to do it.”

As for the selection of the new superintendent, she added, “Ultimately it is a Board decision.”

This is the latest turn of events as  negotiations for a new teacher’s contract brought out divisions in the 109 community. That contract was eventually agreed to and went into place this year and will run through the 2014-15 school year.

Regardless of the petitions, the Board is r, the superintendent of the last eight years who is scheduled to retire at the end of June.

Consultants Outline Plan

The Board received initial input from the education search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the Rosemont based organization that will receive approximately $19,000 to start the process of finding Goier’s replacement.

Hank Gmitro, the firm’s president, talked at length about the options the board can pursue in selecting a new superintendent.

As part of the initial stages of the process, next month representatives of the search firm will talk with community leaders and at the same put together an online survey that will be available in late September over a three week period about what the traits should be for the next superintendent, according to the community.

That information will then go back to the Board and the interviewing process will start in October going through various stages all leading up to a selection being announced at the Jan. 14 Board meeting.

Among the questions facing the Board is how available will the first group of candidates be to the public.

There Are Some Benefits to a “Quiet” Search

While getting as much community involvement is a goal most people have in mind it can be a double edged sword as some candidates may want to apply quietly.

“The more public a process becomes the less likely it becomes that an experienced superintendent would put themselves in that position,” Gmitro said.

But Sari Montgomery, a member of the 109 Caucus countered, “I understand the risks you take when subjecting candidates to that, but given what has gone on in this community, especially in the past year, it is crucial for the ultimately successful candidate that the community has faith in the decision you make.”

London emphasized how the process of finding the new candidate is still being worked out and there will be further discussions on its implementations.

Gmitro noted at some point staff, Board members, parents, community leaders and other elected officials will all play a role in the process and even students will be able to participate in the online survey.

“We don’t generally see large numbers of students participating but some districts like to offer then the opportunity,” Gmitro said.

Once the candidate pool is winnowed down and, should the board decides that none of the candidates are the right fit, the search would start all over again. “Our commitment to the district is we are here until we find the right person,” Gmitro said.

London is optimistic that community can work together to find a new leader for the school system, but is also realistic.

“I hope we can put behind this past year and not even wait for a new superintendent,” London said. “Most of the issues that have come up in the past year have been examined and dealt with and we have a collective bargaining agreement and the teachers are hard at work. I would hope this doesn’t carry forward to a new superintendent but if it does, I can’t control that.”

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RonnieTheLimoDriver August 30, 2012 at 01:13 PM
@Gayle, Im not dissing 500 signatures, and so lets just say its 6% of registered voters and I am off by 100%. That is still a minority of people in the community. Since we are not giving awards out for petition signature gathering, that doesn't accomplish much. In the Board's mind that means 94% of the people in the community support them and 6% are against. In reality, these types of petitions are often full of double signings, people who in fact are not registered voters, etc. So Im probably closer to correct at 3%.
Go With the Flow August 30, 2012 at 01:14 PM
MSB, I agree with everything you have stated about this current school board. Unfortunately, they really will not listen to parents, and they definitely did not listen to the staff members of 109 in my opinion. Why they won't release information about with the "studies" of special education in the district has produced is beyond my understanding. Getting rid of one administrator at Caruso who dealt with special education and moving the principal does not fix what the true problem is at least there. Knowing that the children in all the schools still need to have a resource period, where the concepts can be re-taught and effective understanding can go further then intensive interventions. Most children have been through intensive interventions prior to receiving an IEP. That's what Response to Intervention is about, and that's why they hired yet more coaches for RtI. While it is unfortunate that the board isn't listening to the community, I too hope like Mr. Russillo, that the firm that is looking for our new superintendent, will find a person, that can put this district back together, and staff members to not worry about stating truthful facts in meetings, etc. Ellen London's words are not important to me, as she sounds like the Charlie Brown teacher to me at board meetings now. Hold a board meeting when Open Houses are being held in the district...is it to hope that not a lot of community members/parents show up, so you all can move forward with your own plan!?!?
MSB August 30, 2012 at 03:16 PM
@Ronnie… And you are commenting on my intelligent discourse?? WOW! First of all, your logic is severely flawed. 100% of Deerfield’s population has not been approached to sign the petition, so how you can come to the conclusion that 94% are for the board and 6% are against. And as Gayle and John have pointed out -- about 31% of the population is under 18 years old. I do not believe the petition was even extended to this group. Second, not everyone who agrees with the petition signed it for privacy reason, as with the teachers fear of retaliation; or because their spouse already signed it for their household. Others have commented that they have had their run in with this board but think that we may miss out on the best candidate if there is a delay or if a long term contract is not extended. I would venture to say that most people probably don’t care. However, I can safely say that 100% of the population doesn’t vote in any given election; but now you have a highly motivated group of people that will be urged to vote.
MSB August 30, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Finally and most important, one of life’s lessons that you should have learned by now is that the majority is not always right especially when it discriminates against a minority; i.e. NAZI Germany, the Civil rights movement or when a school district discriminates against providing an education to special needs students. Some day you may be in a minority.
RonnieTheLimoDriver August 30, 2012 at 09:54 PM
MSB, you just don't get it do you? I SAID "in the Board's mind..." meaning that would be there perception. Anyway, Im not sure why I would try to reason with you based on your rants on the topic. How this has anything to do with nazi germany I dont know.

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