Principals under fire in SD 103

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Principals under fire in SD 103

Teachers have “no confidence” in Molina

By Steve Metsch

The jobs of two principals in Lyons School District 103 appear to be in jeopardy.

Tara Kristoff, the Lincoln School Principal, has been on paid administrative leave since Feb. 14.

Al Molina, in his 14th year as principal at Robinson School, has received a stunning “no confidence vote” from 26 of 27 teachers there, union president Toni Jackman told the board Monday night.

During the meeting, the school board twice went into executive session to discuss “employment, compensation and performance of specific employees,” according to the agenda.

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The first session lasted 55 minutes. The second session took two hours.

Teachers stand in support as union president Toni Jackman discusses their no-confidence vote in Robinson Principal Al Molina during the Lyons School District 103 board meeting Monday night. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Afterwards, board members declined to name the employees they were discussing. But, given the turnout by Lincoln and Robinson teachers, it wasn’t hard to figure out whom those three hours were spent discussing.

Kristoff ‘s duties– according to the district’s website – are being handled by Andrea Maslan, former principal of Costello School.

The board extended Maslan’s part-time contract from 100 to 120 days, giving her time needed to complete the school year, board president Marge Hubacek said.

During public comments, a Lincoln School parent criticized the district’s two interim superintendents for failing to keep parents notified about their principal’s status. A note on the website apologized for that.

Maslan, who retired as Costello principal “when the politics took over,” was a curriculum consultant in the district office before moving to Lincoln, Hubacek said.

In a stunning moment, teachers at the meeting stood in silent solidarity when union president Toni Jackman talked about the surprising development at Robinson School.

Jackman later said that 27 Robinson teachers met in early February to discuss Molina. Of those teachers, 26 cast votes of “no confidence” regarding Molina.

The vote was delivered to the school board on Feb. 14, she said in public comments.

“We stand here before you in support of our brothers and sisters at Lincoln School who are also struggling with their building principal,” Jackman said.

“It’s very, very unusual,” Jackman said later of the vote.

Asked why the vote was taken on Molina in his 14th year, Jackman said, “that’s a long time, a lot of stuff.” She declined to elaborate.

She said the teachers standing were a show of “supporting each other in their individual school situations.”

Molina, contacted at school early Tuesday, said he was “confused” by the vote.

“I’ve consistently received very good evaluations with my last three being excellent. Considering that, I’m very confused. I’m very sorry to say it, but I think there is a personal vendetta against me,” Molina said.

Molina, 48, has worked in the district for 20 years. He declined further comment.

During public comments, Robinson parent Martha Gonzalez spoke highly of Molina: “I’ve known him for 15 years now and I’ve never had any complaints about him,” she said.

“On Feb. 15, it was brought to my attention by another parent who was told by a staff member at Robinson that Mr. Molina was not going to return for another school year. I’m very upset and disappointed because he’s been a great educator and a great leader,” Gonzalez said.

She’s gathered 30 to 40 signatures from parents who support Molina, she said. Her eldest three children attended Robinson. A fourth child is there now.

“He’s always been good to me and my children. If I had an issue with a teacher, he helped me. I was very disappointed when I found out about this vote. When I saw all the teachers standing up, I was dumbfounded. I thought, ‘Are you serious?’” Gonzalez said early Tuesday.

School board member Shannon Johnson, a teacher in Glencoe, said a no-confidence vote is seldom seen.

Hubacek, who has worked in the district 33 years, said she’d never before seen a no-confidence vote.

Hubacek said the teachers standing “was a show that they were supporting the union, not that they were here anti-board.”

Asked about the executive sessions, she said, “we had a personnel issue. No action will be taken until the March board meeting. That’s typically when we make staffing decisions.”

Hubaceck said, “there are a lot of scenarios that can happen. He can be back at his position, he could be somewhere else, he could decide to leave. The board has to really think about this. They may talk about it again. But we don’t take a definitive vote until March.”

Principals typically have one-year contracts. So, rather than firing the principals, the board could simply decide to not renew the contracts, thus ending their employment. Kristoff is in her first year at Lincoln.

Patrick Patt, one of two interim superintendents in the district, declined to comment about the meeting “unless you tell us who leaked the letter.”

Patt referred to a copy of the Feb. 14 letter from Dr. Robert Madonia to Kristoff informing her she was being placed on paid administrative leave for failing to follow directives, for making “derogatory and false statements” about he and Patt, and for “unprofessional and insubordinate conduct.”

The Desplaines Valley News does not reveal confidential sources.

— Desplaines Valley News

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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
Steve Metsch

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