SD 103 principal on paid leave
“Insubordinate conduct” blamed in leaked letter
By Steve Metsch
The embattled Lyons School District 103 – which caught heat last year for hiring a teacher charged with attempted murder in a road rage incident – has another personnel issue broiling.
This one involves a principal who, allegedly, had some things to say that did not sit well with interim superintendents Patrick Patt and Robert Madonia.
In a letter dated Feb. 14, Madonia informed Lincoln Elementary School Principal Tara Kristoff that she was immediately being placed on paid administrative leave for “derogatory and false statement’” about he and Patt during a meeting on Feb. 13.
This is her first year as principal of Lincoln School, which is located in Brookfield.
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Madonia, Patt and Kristoff could not be reached for comment.
Board member Jorge Torres thinks it may be political, that teachers in Lincoln School who are close to the interim superintendents may not like Kristoff.
“They’re aren’t happy with her because she’s enforcing rules and making sure people are accountable for their classrooms,” Torres said Feb. 18. “She has a voice. She voices her opinions. They don’t like it.”
Torres said Kristoff tried to get a student expelled because of a fight with another student but was overruled by Madonia.
“Maybe she said she didn’t agree with that, and that’s when things came about,” Torres said.
The school board met in executive session Feb. 19, to discuss the issue. Nobody on the board commented prior to the meeting.
“You can’t get rid of somebody just because you don’t like them. You have to have substantial grounds. You cannot renew their contract if you don’t like them, but you can’t get rid of them,” board member Joanne Schaeffer said Feb. 18.
The letter, addressed to Kristoff’s home in Frankfort, reads as follows:
Dear Mrs. Kristoff,
As I informed you on February 14, 2019, you have been placed on paid administrative leave from your position as Principal of Lincoln Elementary School, effective immediately, pending an investigation into your conduct during a February 13, 2019, staff meeting.
Administration is reviewing allegations regarding your conduct during the February 13, 2019 meeting, including allegations that you (1) failed to follow your supervisor’s directives regarding the meeting agenda; (2) made derogatory and false statements about the District’s Interim Superintendents to staff members; and (3) engaged in unprofessional and insubordinate conduct.
During the term of this administrative leave and until further notice, you are directed to not be on District property or attend any District events. In addition, you are required to keep this investigation confidential, and you are directed not to discuss this investigation or any information related to the allegations against you with anyone other than your attorney. You must not retaliate against any District employee you believe is cooperating in the investigation.
If you violate these directives, you will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
If you have any questions, please direct them to my attention.
Dr. Robert Madonia
Schaeffer questioned if any negative statements were made.
“I don’t think she made a derogatory comment about any superintendent,” Schaeffer said. “What do they consider a derogatory statement, tell them go to go hell? I don’t know. If that’s being insubordinate or whatever, then I’d be in deep trouble.’
The issue may come to a head when the board meets at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Washington Middle School in Lyons, Torres said.
“The intention is to get rid of her, so that’s what they are doing,” Torres said.
Tom Weiner, the newest member of the board, declined comment Feb. 18. “I am not allowed to talk about this as of yet. We haven’t made anything official, so I can’t make any comment on this,” Weiner said.
— Desplaines Valley News