Lyons SD 103 board fires teacher

Lyons SD 103 board fires teacher

Application, not attempted murder charge, costs job 

By Steve Metsch

It didn’t have the overflow crowd of just two months ago, when news broke about Andres Rodriguez’ background.

No elected officials showed up demanding changes be made.

No Chicago TV reporters made breathless reports from “an embattled west suburban school district.”

But the Dec. 17  meeting of the Lyons School District 103 board had the same hot topic: What to do regarding Rodriguez, a sixth-grade English teacher at George Washington Middle School?

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At the meeting of Oct. 22, a host of elected officials made impassioned pleas for the board to fire Rodriguez over an incident last year.

In July 2017, Rodriguez, 40, was charged with seven counts of attempted murder and a felony assault charge after he shot a motorist seven times after a traffic altercation in Tinley Park. He is out on bond and awaiting trial.

In the end, it wasn’t the fact that Rodriguez had been charged with shooting another motorist in a road rage incident that cost him his job.

It was the matter of his fudging on his job application that has him unemployed again.

“He misrepresented himself on his (job) application,” interim Supt. Patrick Patt said.

“They ask very specific questions, and one is, ‘Have you ever been released or terminated?’ And he was in Cicero in February,” Patt said.

 

Lyons School District 103 board members Jorge Torres (from left), Joanne Schaeffer and Tom Weiner all voted Dec. 17  in favor of firing sixth-grade teacher Andres Rodriguez. He has been charged with attempted murder in a road rage shooting incident in Tinley park dating back to 2017, but was fired for failing to disclose he’d been fired by another district. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

 

Elected officials were appalled that such a person would be hired by the school district.

School officials, on the other hand, said all the proper checks and balances had been made, save the one that, in the end, led to Rodriguez losing his job in Lyons.

Then, after an executive session of just over 90 minutes, the board Monday night voted unanimously to fire Rodriguez.

Rodriguez and his attorney, Eugene Keefe, attended the executive session, Patt said. Keefe did all the talking, board president Marge Hubacek said.

Unlike October’s loud meeting, there were just a handful of people in attendance when Monday’s vote took place.

They had either been tipped off, or knew how to read between the lines to know what was coming.

The cryptic “A Non-Tenured Teacher Discharge” was listed as an action item near the end of the agenda, just above “adjournment.”

Board members reconvened after the executive session and voted 6-0 – vice president Sharon Anderson was absent – to relieve Rodriguez of his duties. He had been on paid administrative leave since October, Hubacek said.

Rodriguez was fired because had had not disclosed on his job application that he had been fired by a Cicero school district, officials said.

The board is typically not told of an applicant’s arrest history, unless they are convicted of a crime, trustee Shannon Johnson said.

And that’s something she’d love to see changed.

“He should have never been hired. The removal was inevitable. Had he been honest and disclosed on his application (about losing his job in Cicero) this would have never happened,” Johnson said.

“I’m very upset about the whole thing. When we have a teaching license, we do the initial background check, fingerprinting, everything else. If you are charged, there should be something saying, ‘Hey, this is pending, but nothing has happened yet.’ How are we to know?” Johnson said.

She supports proposed legislation alerting school boards about criminal charges against job candidates.

“There’s no safety net for us. There needs to be a safety net. I’m a teacher (in Glencoe) and think I would deserve to not teach if I was accused of something like that. There needs to be legislation passed because this needs to stop happening,” Johnson said.

Patt said it took two months for the board to fire Rodriguez was because “we had to go through the proper procedures, the protocol.”

“We did what we had to do,” Patt said.

Hubacek said she was relieved the ordeal was over.

“We’ll take a look at what happened, but everything came back the way it should have,” Hubacek said.

Board member Jorge Torres, who, along with Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty, had demanded Rodriguez’ firing in October, said Monday’s action was needed “because of a negative image for the school.”

“I was very surprised (by the shooting incident),” Torres said. “Of course, I feel better for the school district.”

Rodriguez will collect no more paychecks from the district because he has been fired, Hubacek said. He had been on paid administrative leave since October, she said.

In October, state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-11th) called for clearer disclosure practices for Illinois teachers after Rodriguez was allowed to teach in multiple suburban school districts while facing charges of attempted murder.

 

— Desplaines Valley News

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Steve Metsch

Steve Metsch

Steve Metsch is an award winning veteran reporter who previously worked for the Daily Southtown Newspapers, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Metsch is a writer and editor at the Southwest News Newspaper group based in suburban Chicago, and a freelance writer for a financial newsletter, a health magazine and the Naperville Sun.
Email Steve Metsch at sm4610@sbcglobal.net
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