Lake Forest Caucus Supports District 67 Special Counsel's Independent Investigation

Hope the term “wrongdoing” does not limit the scope of counsel's inquiry.

The Lake Forest Caucus applauds the District 67 School Board’s decision to appoint Ronald S. Safer as special counsel to review the process concerning the Deer Path Middle School principal matter, and for its express commitment to make public the independent counsel's findings.

It is also commendable that certain members of the District 67 School Board have voluntarily recused themselves from this process. Although not expressly stated in the District’s public statement, we trust that Superintendent Harry Griffith also has been excluded from participation in any capacity other than as a witness.

We also trust that the use of the term “wrongdoing” was not intended to limit the scope of Mr. Safer’s inquiry. Any act or omission that contributed to the failure to identify and to address appropriately the crime committed by the Deer Path Middle School principal should be evaluated regardless of whether it constitutes "wrongdoing."

Only with a comprehensive review will the District and the community have the necessary foundation to ensure that these events do not happen again.

Whether as part of the independent review or otherwise, there are also fundamental governance issues that warrant the District 67 School Board’s consideration going forward.

These issues include (1) the definition of and adherence to the proper roles of the School Superintendent and School Board members; and (2) the presence and appropriate use of legal counsel by the School Board, particularly when criminal matters are involved. These issues merit careful review and the answers should be clearly communicated to the community to address concerns raised based on the recent events.

The Caucus is also committed to doing its part, consistent with its purpose and role of promoting civic involvement and recommending qualified candidates for election to the District 67 and 115 School Boards.

The next School Board elections are in April 2013. The Caucus already has formed a School Board Search Committee to seek out qualified candidates. The Caucus also is developing a School Board candidate application and interview process that will further improve the quality of its candidate selection process.

The Caucus also seeks the help of the residents of this community. Many of you have already given of your time and insights by talking with members of the Caucus about the Deer Path Middle School principal matter. We thank you for doing so and urge you to continue your civic engagement.

Like so many others in this community, we strive to do the best job we can. We don’t have all the answers. We can do better, but the success of the Caucus is predicated on the robust involvement of the community, so your input truly makes a difference.

In a couple of months, you will be receiving the annual mailing of the “Caucus Connection.” In that mailing, you are asked to vote on the candidates for your Ward Caucus Committee. Three new members of each of the four, nine-person Ward Caucus Committees are elected each year by you. We typically receive back very few of the thousands of ballots distributed with the Caucus Connection to the community.

In 2012, we hope that you will take the time to fill out and return your ballot. If you are willing to do more and serve on the Caucus, there is still time to contact your Caucus Ward Chair (who is listed on our website) and to complete a Volunteer Profile Sheet (VPS) in order to be considered as a candidate for the Caucus in the 2012 election.

Lake forest dad December 02, 2011 at 01:00 PM
There is no need to spend our money on this investigation. We know the problem. Those in authority were either asleep at the switch or hid the problem. This investigation which will cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars will be used to justify conduct by those in authority. Better those in authority should have the character to recognize the mistakes made and resign. We have better things to do with our money. A disappointed Lake Forest dad.
Arthur H. Miller December 02, 2011 at 02:55 PM
While I very much sympathize with the concerns of parents like Lake Forest dad, I support and commend the Caucus for taking a strong stand on independent review by a qualified legal professional, something close to the heart of our system of due process. I'm dismayed to hear that the review will cost hundreds of thousands, and sincerely hope that the attorney --like a good architect -- will discover that less is more. But the Caucus too has been under indirect scrutiny, and its assertiveness here through its good suggestions to undergird independence is appropriate and appreciated.
ConcernedLakeForestResident December 02, 2011 at 04:09 PM
I don't think it should cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which would be such a shame because this all should have been handled timely in 2009, but it wasn't. (1) The redacted report Harry Griffith received should be reviewed and determined whether "a reasonable person" in his position would have inquired further. (2) All 2009 school bopard members need to be interviewed and asked what detail did Harry give them in 2009. (3) Was Harry forthcoming? (4) Apply the reasonable person standard to the 2009 school board persons --- did they react properly, or did Harry have them wrapped around his pinky finger? I don;t think there are going to be any surprises here.
Gary December 02, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Indirect scrutiny? I thought I was being pretty direct. The LFC is under new leadership now, and this next election cycle will give them a chance to redeem themselves and live up to their own standards: of being non-partisan, of being independent of special interest groups, and of promoting civic involvement... hopefully through civil means this time. Unfortunately the LFC, as the sole functioning political group in Lake Forest, has a monopoly on power, so the only way they will be put to the test is if independent candidates run against them. We'll have to wait and see if any brave souls emerge to challenge them.
Pat Lyon December 02, 2011 at 09:52 PM
I'd like to add: who else knew about the situation? The D67 Communications director? The D67 IT Director?
Eric December 03, 2011 at 03:00 AM
We can be relatively certain that Mr. Safer will do a good and thorough job in accordance with the instructions he is given. The key here is what instructions will he be given. If he is commissioned to do anything less than to determine whether Harry handled this affair appropriately and whether there was any negligence in performing his duties, then the four less-tainted Board members will have firmly grasped the tar baby that is Harry Griffith.
mr gower December 03, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Three questions I still have; a) what of the "reciprocal reporting agreement" ? (with LFPD) b) who conducted the "internal investigation " and why is he no longer with the district? 3)how did Steinert get the interns cell number?
LFMom December 03, 2011 at 03:47 AM
What I'm curious about is how did this matter leak to the public in the first place? I was told a LF resident filed the FOIA request for the police report and then passed it on to the Tribune who revealed it to the public. But how did this LF resident find out about it in the first place? It seems to me that someone on the inside leaked the information because they felt it was wrong to keep Steinert on the payroll.
Eric December 03, 2011 at 02:13 PM
I learned that some teachers knew about the arrest back in 2009 but they kept it very quiet out of fears for their jobs. Over time, stuff begins to leak out. It has been reported that the victim talked to a number of friends and family. Maybe one of them alerted the Tribune. the bottom line is that the source of the leak is irrelevant. A crime was committed and the administration bungled its handling of the perpetrator. This should have been a quiet resignation in 2009. Instead, it is a national embarrassment.
LFMom December 04, 2011 at 05:36 AM
@Eric, I totally agree. I only pointed out an insider probably leaked the information because others who support Griffith say the only reason why people are so upset and want him to resign is because this is a witch hunt. On the contrary, someone leaked this after two years because they felt Griffith and the BOE did not handle it properly by keeping him on the payroll and not investigating it further. I doubt a friend or family member of the victim leaked this to the LF resident who submitted the FOIA request for the police report. In any case, I agree this was clearly mishandled and those who were responsible, if they really cared about the children, school district and community, should step down now.
BraveScoutMom December 04, 2011 at 10:10 PM
I'm happy the Caucus advocates the need for the investigation to go beyond investigating how the Steinert matter was handled to address fundamental governance issues. We need to restore the proper check and balance between the school administration and school board. I like that the Caucus identifies candidates for service who'd never serve if they had to be campaign politicians. We benefit greatly from this. But the lack of public debate during elections has a dark side: we get a school board unwilling to "make waves." Our School Board president was quoted saying they didn't fire Steinert because "he was popular and parents would be mad." Who's minding the store? We're left with a Superintendent who has an out of control ego along with a school board that's been totally ineffective in keeping him in check. In the end, I lay most of the blame at the feet of our school board for failing to watch out for the best interests of our community. They didn't ask the right questions back when the Steinert disaster could have been prevented. They didn't ask the right questions before approving Griffith's outrageous pay package. I wonder what else is out there that they didn't question? At least Griffith's retirement is coming soon so we have the chance to start fixing this mess with the right hire. What I want is a restored faith in the school board and the knowledge that they will ask more tough questions and choose right when replacing Griffith.
LAKE BLUFFER DUFFER December 08, 2011 at 03:48 PM
So typical of our Government and schools today. I am an attorney, representing public entities, and I see these investigations every day. Mark my word, some minor oversight will be found on the part of HR and that will be the end of this. Why should and will this cost hundreds of thousands of dollars? Where is that printed?


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