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Back to the future

Former SD 103 Supt. is new Washington principal

By Steve Metsch

Carol Baker is returning to Lyons School District 103 in a different position than the one she left.

The former superintendent will be the principal of George Washington Middle School and will be the assistant superintendent starting on July 1.

“I am super excited,” Baker said on May 29. “I loved the Lyons School District when I came there four years ago. Fell in love with the district. Fell in love with the community.”

Her return was approved when the school board met on May 26 at Washington Middle School.

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Baker will be paid a salary of $129,000 each year in her two-year deal that runs until June 30, 2022.

Carol Baker is the new principal of George Washington Middle School. (File photo)

Carol Baker, the new principal of George Washington Middle School in Lyons, had been the superintendent of School District 103 before she left two years ago. Photo by Steve Metsch.

 

The vote was 4-3 with the majority approving her return. The “no” votes came from minority members, who were on the board when Baker’s time in Lyons ended two years ago.

In 2018, she left for Hinsdale with a year to go on her Lyons contract after it was clear she would not be renewed by the majority then in power.

“I only left because the previous school board pushed me out,” Baker said. “The reality is, (District 103) kept pulling on my heartstrings.”

She said she was not surprised by opposition from some board members to her returning to the district, but is hoping to win them over with her job performance as principal and assistant superintendent.

Board member Marge Hubacek said that Baker was “fired” from her most recent job in Hinsdale Township High School District 86, where she worked as assistant superintendent for academics/chief academics officer since July 1, 2018.

Baker said it was more a case of politics when a new superintendent was hired in Hinsdale as to why her two-year contract was not renewed.

She looks forward to the challenge of being a principal for the first time.

“That’s one of the things I’m most excited about,” Baker said. “In my current position at Hinsdale, sadly, I don’t get to spend much time with kids in a classroom.”

“So, I am excited to do all the great things principals do, which is to engage with kids … to really become engaged with teachers, students and parents at the school level,” Baker said. “It reminds us what we’re all doing this for.”

Before the school board meeting, some parents – including two former board members – aligned with minority board members filled the parking lot outside Washington Middle School to show their opposition to Baker’s return.

Board president Jorge Torres said the numbers represented a very small percentage of parents in the district.

Baker declined to comment, but did say “staff liked me when I was there and I enjoyed the work.” She added: “I tried really hard to work with that previous board and to do what’s best for kids, to present myself a neutral as possible.”

During the meeting, Supt. Kristopher Rivera and board Torres spoke highly of Baker’s qualifications for the job.

Board member Shannon Johnson expressed her doubts about Baker’s return, saying being principal “is not an easy job,” and asking how it’s feasible for Baker to also be assistant superintendent.

Rivera said Baker’s “knowledge and expertise” are valuable in the job, while Torres called Baker “a professional person.”

“When the other side took over, things changed because they were against every move she made,” Torres said of why Baker left in 2018. “She’s a strong person. I think she’s qualified to be a principal.”

Board member Sharon Anderson preferred a one-year contract instead of two “to see how this flushes out.”

Rivera said the two-year deal was “to express the commitment” to the middle school. Most of Baker’s duties are expected to be as principal, he said.

Anderson wondered if Baker’s presence would have a negative impact on Rivera in his job. Rivera said he anticipated no such problems like that.

At the start of the meeting, eight letters from the public opposing Baker’s hiring were read into the record.

Asked about restrictions on education due to the coronavirus pandemic, with classes at home since March, Baker said: “We are in strange times in education today with what’s been going on because of the pandemic.”

“It needs deep thinkers to put their head together and figure out how we can best meet the needs for kids despite the craziness going on out there,” Baker said.

The board also approved, by a 4-3 vote, hiring Beatriz Lappay as an assistant principal at Lincoln School for $83,000.

The board approved a one-year extension with Preferred Meal Systems for lunches, and approved roof replacements at Costello School for $160,050 and Lincoln School for $78,230.

The board approved cutting sewer and water lines to the former American Legion hall, 4112 S. Joliet, which the district owns and is just south of the administration building.

That’s the first step toward eventual demolition which, officials said, is needed to make room for parking. The building needs costly repairs, Torres said, like $40,000 for a roof.

The board briefly considered moving the meeting time up an hour to 6 p.m., but decided it best to keep it at 7 p.m. The next board meeting will be held on June

— Desplaines Valley News

Steve Metsch
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