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Griffith: 'We Made a Mistake' on Handling of Deer Path Middle School Principal

School District 67 superintendent said they had no knowledge that an unredacted police report detailing John Steinert's lewd cell phone messages could be obtained post-court decision.

Superintendent Harry Griffith said "we made a mistake" in the way the district handled the arrest and conviction of l Principal John Steinert in 2009 on misdemeanor harassment charges of transmitting sexually explicit messages and a lewd photo to a 22-year-old student at the time.

, they indicated an unredacted police report from the Gurnee Police Department was available that revealed the specific allegations about Steinert.

"We sure didn't know that until yesterday," Griffith said Friday afternoon. "If we had this information earlier, it would have been a different outcome to the remediation process we took."

Upon obtaining a copy of the unredacted police report with assistance from the , Griffith suspended Steinert and placed him on leave with pay. Steinert, 40, who has worked for the district for nearly six years, earns $170,000 a year. (See the attached redacted version).

Griffith said the board of education will meet in executive session at 5 p.m. Sunday to discuss Steinert's employment status.

Griffith professed he had no previous experience in this area to fall back on in order to take a different course of action.

"It's not that we got lazy," he said. "We didn't know to follow up. We didn't know how an arrest report is followed up pre- and post-court."

Griffith said the district's internal investigation, conducted by the human resources department, relied on Steinert to be forthcoming about his actions.

"I thought he was being straightforward with us," Griffith said. "When it first happened, he admitted right away to us that he was guilty. But he was contrite in his answers, and in the investigation, he said general things about what he did but not specific."

When Griffith saw the unredacted report, "it was shocking to see," he said. "The fact that the language was so aggressive."

According to the Chicago Tribune article and Griffith, Steinert used his school district cellphone to transmit some sexually explicit text messages covering a nine-month period starting in May 2008 and ending in January 2009, when the victim filed charges. One asked the woman if she wanted Steinert to perform specific sexual acts with her. He also sent a photograph of his penis to her. Steinert was not on school grounds when he transmitted the text messages or photo, Griffith said.

Griffith said Steinert met the victim at Deer Path Middle School while she was there shadowing the school's resource officer. The police report states her internship started in March 2008 and ended in May 2008.

"She was a intern, and she was rotating throughout the community with the police," Griffith explained.

Griffith said there was no attempt to talk to the victim because she was not an employee of the district, nor did it involve staff members, students or a minor. Griffith said he was advised by the district attorney not to speak with her.

"It was not a school-related activity other than they met at the school," Griffith said. "If it was more school-related, we would have talked to her."

held a meeting Friday morning for parents after sending out an email Thursday night about Steinert. Administrators and social workers were on call to be available to students as needed.

DL November 22, 2011 at 04:33 AM
Great idea! Vote with your dollars is one of the best messages! I'm going to do the same! Thanks for the great idea!
DL November 22, 2011 at 04:38 AM
Unfortunately, BOE executive sessions regarding personnel matters are not subject to the Open Meetings Act. So this is a way for them to discuss things privately without having to reveal details to the public. Frustrating I know, but that's the law.
Stu Pidasso November 22, 2011 at 05:24 AM
Griffith needs to go. if he is able to skate the next Seven months until retirement, then collect his hefty pension, we the taxpayers are fools!! It makes me wonder what else has he "swept under the carpet" in the last 20 years!! Shame on him, when it comes down to perverts like Steinert that are around our Children!!, and this guy (Griffith) tried to cover it up!! Lets take a stand and remove him, and set an example that this will NOT be tolerated in OUR schools. Also, the Board needs a second look. I know well enough that they knew what had transpired in 2009 and are just as guilty as Griffith is.
DL November 22, 2011 at 06:54 AM
Below are two links. The first is the link to the Directory of Regional Offices of Education and Intermediate Service Centers. It has the contact information for Regional Superintendent Roycealee J. Wood's office, which will conduct an investigation into the actions (or in this case, inaction) of Griffith and the BOE. Everyone who wants Griffith and the three BOE members to resign can send her an e-mail expressing this. The second link is to the 2011-2012 Lake Country School Directory which has a list of all the schools in Lake County, their enrollment and certified personnel. Notice how many schools have higher enrollments but fewer personnel compared to LF. There are quite a few, even when you compare D67 and D115 to schools with comparable educational experiences such as Stevenson D125 and Deerfield/Highland Park D113, where the ratio of certified personnel to students is 1:12.7 and 1:11.3, respectively, compared to D115's 1:9.7; which underscores how "top heavy" our district is. The same goes for elementary school districts. Lake Bluff D65 (1:10.6), Deerfield D109 (1:11.3), and Highland Park D112 (1:9.7), all have lower personnel per student ratios compared to D67's 1:7.7. http://www.isbe.net/regionaloffices/pdf/roedirectory.pdf Roycealee Wood 800 Lancer Lane, Suite E-128 Grayslake, Illinois 60030-2656 website: www.lake.k12.il.us/ Telephone: 847/543-7833 Fax: 847/543-7832 http://www.lake.k12.il.us/roe_sch_dir/docs/LAKE_COUNTY_SCHOOL_DIRECTORY.pdf
I.M. Weasel November 22, 2011 at 02:18 PM
It is now clear why Griffith is pitifully clinging to his job. With his reputation now in tatters, he knows that he will never be hired into a lucrative consulting position. The money he milks from the taxpayers of Lake Forest will be the he ever gets until he begins milking the State of IL for his pension. For Harry, this is all about the money.
Really? November 22, 2011 at 02:36 PM
He did not plead guilty to a "crime of a sexual nature." It was electronic harassment, a misdemeanor. Perhaps Steinhart was not fully forthcoming with the details?
Ted November 22, 2011 at 05:13 PM
It always has been about the money, never about the children. I was amazed when we received an email from D-67 saying everything is fine, Asst. Supt. Henrickson is now in charge and he will be aided by the FOUR asst. principals at DPM (one for each grade level). How many asst. principals are needed? Does School of St. Mary have EIGHT asst. principals? I think not! How many managers are at West Campus supervising zero children? I would much prefer more teachers rather than a bloated staff. I would like to see D-67 publish an organizational chart with all of the positions and salaries listed (don't need names). It appears Dr. Griffith's legacy may be a bloated, entrenched management team and one more scandal, not educational excellence!
Really? November 22, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Focusing on this issue: an independent commission has been requested (to the Regional District) by the BOE. Other comments regarding the educational system here in LF: I can guarantee you that we live in THE 1%! And, the current BOE can be credited for much of the improvements and innovations during and since my children finished their time in the district(s). I have family around the USA who are raising children (and grandchildren) and who are teachers and administrators. They are amazed at the opportunities our students have, the breadth and depth of learning and the degree of knowledge with which they graduate. This is just one of the reasons why I remain in LF and continue to pay taxes to support our well-managed schools.
Pat Lyon November 22, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Ir you choose to email Roycealee Wood, please give her your phone number so she can call you to the issue with you. She does return the phone calls.
DL November 22, 2011 at 07:41 PM
In a recent article Woods' office cannot conduct an investigation. ""This is a local issue," Wood said. "I don't have the authority to remove anyone. It's not that I don't want to be helpful, but this needs to be dealt with locally." Woods said any disciplinary action against Griffith has to be done by the School Board. Wood said it's possible a group of residents could retain an attorney, who would then contact the school district's attorney for recourse regarding the issue. Wood said she did contact the Illinois State Board of Education Legal Department, and she is following up on the State Board's investigation of whether Steinert's education certificate should be suspended or revoked based on his conduct, Wood said she would prefer any further communication by residents to be done by telephone instead of e-mail. She can be reached at (847) 543-7833." We all know the current BOE won't fire or ask Griffith to resign.
I.M. Weasel November 22, 2011 at 07:43 PM
@Shirley - It is the endless generosity of the community that makes the LF schools the success that they are. I find it offensive that the BOE and Harry Griffith repay this generosity with mismanagement, waste, opacity and lies.
LFMom November 22, 2011 at 08:03 PM
I agree with Ima Golfer. The superior quality of our children's education is based on: quality of teachers, the generous community who devote their time and treasure to enrich the curriculum (APT and LFHS Foundation grants elevate the curriculum by paying for smart boards, state of the art technology, etc.), and our community where families stress the importance of education in their homes. If you take away the thousands of $$$ in donations to our schools, many materials/programs/activities would be reduced or eliminated. Hardly any other community charges for bus service. Other communities across the country with similar demographics and quality of education do not have as many administrators. Yes, the BOE are volunteers who devote their time/talent for the benefit of our children's education, but to give them much of the credit for the amazing opportunities, breadth/depth of learning and knowledge does not give due notice to the teachers and parents who are on the front lines everyday nor the ample donations that continue to fill the gap in budgets which continue to be squeezed.
Pat Lyon November 22, 2011 at 08:17 PM
I believe Ms. Rose is an attorney. If so, you would think she would have seen it as her civic and professional duty to investigate the issue more when it happened in 2009.
I.M. Weasel November 22, 2011 at 08:18 PM
In addition to the substantial direct financial burden that this community bears in order to support Harry, we can now also add: - legal fees incurred by the community to force the Board of Education to fulfill their responsibility to terminate Harry for cause; - legal fees to be incurred by the City in order to defend itself from the citizen's actions; - a growing distrust that is pitting neighbor against neighbor; - the reputations and careers of the Board of Education; - the reputation of the community (we are internationally famous for all of the wrong reasons); and - the moral fiber of our children. Harry is demonstrating that when you are wrong, you don't stand up and take full responsibility and accept the consequences. Maybe his parents never taught him that honor and integrity are the two most valuable things you can possess. Well done Harry I hope that you choke on your bloated pension.
LFMom November 22, 2011 at 08:30 PM
Tribune editorial: Harry and the three BOE members "should quit." http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-lakeforest-20111122,0,6376701.story
Really? November 22, 2011 at 08:51 PM
I certainly did not mean to imply that we could account for our superior schools are the result of only good management! Goodness knows, my children had some of the most devoted and specialized in their field. And, yes, I, too did my share of volunteering/supporting in both districts. But, please keep this issue where it belongs and let not muddle it. SOMEONE (an individual) sought out the redacted report on Nov. 9 and took it to the Tribune. Why? Why not take it to the school officials, form a group a concerned parents, go to the police, etc.? To seek out the sensational reporting seems suspiciously like someone (or a group) seeking a vendetta. Just saying...
Really? November 22, 2011 at 09:04 PM
LFMOM: my apologies. No slight intended. You are absolutely correct. However, do remember that no business is efficiently run without good management. I was here 23 years ago and remember the "old regime" and the old structure and waste of many buildings, children shifting around 3 schools before high school, the nightmare of spending 4th and 5th grade at the West Campus without even a playground. I remember the Linda Chase cheating scandal at Cherokee where my children attended. I remember the high school being run like a country club-where who you knew got you into the classes you wanted and the attention of colleges. MUCH has changed in the climate and character of both districts under the management of Dr. Griffith and many BOE's. All of this should not be negated by this incident. Due process needs to be done here. Further, many districts across the country charge for bus service and have as many administrators as we do.
Really? November 22, 2011 at 09:06 PM
And...who among us agrees with the Tribune editorial Board?? Not me, on just about any issue.
Really? November 22, 2011 at 09:55 PM
@Kathie: Yes, I have a long history here, and continue to be involved. I am trying to see this issue objectively and pragmatically-as well as what is best for the children. I DO compare "then" to "now" because I have experienced the improvement. Also, having educators/administrators/parents(raising children) in my family in other cities and states, I have a broad base for comparison. From this stance is where I come. This issue needs to be taken on its own. If I were a parent of a school-age child now, I would ask: how does this affect my child. Additionally, I say: What reason would a BOE and Dr. Griffith have for a supposed cover-up? To that, there is no reasonable answer. I imagine he was following advice from attorneys and is accepting "the fall" as CEO (IMO). Finally, I just do not understand, pragmatically, expending energy on all this anger that should be and could be spent on healing and forgiving. I do not believe there was any conscious wrongdoing on the part of Dr. Griffith or the BOE. Simple words from someone who has lived here 23 years, raised children in both districts, watched many great changes occur. Life is not perfect. Forgiveness is golden...anger makes people ugly.
I.M. Weasel November 22, 2011 at 10:06 PM
@Shirley - With all due respect, you seem to be suggesting that it is best to just let the fact that Harry was grossly negligent in his investigation of the Steinert affair, He has admitted that serious errors were made. Nonetheless, he has refused to stand up and face the music. As was said last night, at the end of the day, John Steinert is the only one who has acted honorably. He has admitted that he was wrong and he left quietly. On the other hand, Harry has said that he made mistakes but he has no intention of leaving. That is neither honorable.. Healing begins when the disease is purged. While Harry remains to be a cancer within our community, healing cannot begin. The BOE needs to recognize that by not firing Harry immediately they are perpetuating the problem and probably making it worse.
Pat Lyon November 22, 2011 at 10:16 PM
Kathie - did you mean to mention Mr. Steinert in your comment or did you mean Griffith? BTW, I agree with everything you have said in your comments -- with one exception (if I understood your comment correctly): I don't believe, under the current circumstances, the next superintendent should come from within the current administration. I think we can use a fresh perspective from a qualified outside candidate at this point.
Really? November 22, 2011 at 10:41 PM
I do not think Dr. Griffith was "grossly negligent", and I will add, neither do many of my friends. Was this an error, yes. Is it a terminable offense? No. I also know that the members of the BOE are independently minded persons. All this trashing of them is terribly disturbing. Has any of you ever served on a Board? Do you know the commitment it takes? These individuals truly have no agenda but the best interest of educating our children.
Really? November 22, 2011 at 10:50 PM
Kathie, I'm just trying to urge people to step back and take stock a bit. I've been in your shoes. All the anger and screaming blocks the ability to listen and think rationally. For argument's sake, let's accept what you've said above. Does it really make sense, financially, for continuity, for stability, to have an interim superintendent? If you want recourse, is there not another solution? As far as the BOE, even in this argument, what would be gained by their removal? What are they negligent of? Anyway...please know we had our issues, too. Dr. Griffith has always been controversial!! You do not have to like him, but, in my opinion he is a good CEO.
I.M. Weasel November 22, 2011 at 10:55 PM
@Shirley - Harry failed to fully investigate a criminal offence by a middle school principal. He went against the advice of counsel in not terminating the principal. He then went on to promote the employee when by his own admission, were that person to come in as a new candidate, they would not even be consider for employment. Harry denies receiving the phone of Steinert even though the Gurnee PD states the date and time that it was delivered. Harry never asked for a non-redacted copy of the report even though the form clearly states the process for doing so. Instead, he took the word of the person who had just plead guilty to the offence. Perhaps negligence is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps if you and your friends were to remove their rose colored glasses, it would become more apparent. The BOE is not being trashed. They are being called out for not stepping up and doing the right thing. It takes true backbone and integrity to do the right thing. Thus far, I am seeing nothing other that appeasement of Harry.
Really? November 22, 2011 at 11:06 PM
@ImaGolfer: Many of your "facts" are incorrect. How do you know he went against advice of counsel? As far choosing not to hire a person who has been charged with this crime, of course! But, with an employee in place, many managers would make the same decision (and have). Additionally, why would the superintendent go and ask for the unredacted copy? Do you not think this would have been a task that an underling or counsel should have remembered to carry though with? Finally, I have not insulted you, and I would very much appreciate you not insulting me.
I.M. Weasel November 23, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Dearest Shirley - I fear it is you that has not collected their facts. This matter was kept secret as they did not want it in the public domain. Delegation to an "underling" (a very condescending tern) would not absolve the CEO of responsibility. In addition, Harry chose to ignore the advice of counsel on the termination issue and he never even supplied counsel with the redacted report.
Really? November 23, 2011 at 01:52 AM
@Ima Golfer: It is my understanding that advice of counsel was an explanation of choices - not a clear cut answer. But, all of these different views of "what happened when" further magnifies the necessity of a thorough investigation - not just an outright call for someone's resignation. You may have the facts, or I may, or they may be somewhere in between.
Stu Pidasso November 23, 2011 at 04:06 AM
opinions are life A$$Hole$, everyone has one... Ima golfer.... I wholeheartedly agree with everything you have said, he needs to go!!
Really? November 23, 2011 at 05:06 AM
LOL!! I may not agree with you, Stu, but you sure made me chuckle at this late hour. Thanks for adding some well needed levity!
LFFamilyof5 November 23, 2011 at 06:26 AM
Regarding transparency, I'd like to hear from a member of the D67 school board, namely the Secretary to recall if Harry spoke out negatively prior to the elections regarding any school board candidates in the last election cycle. If our Superintendent was involved in the process of molding the Board's opinion regarding certian candidates and attempting to affect the election's outcome, I'd like to know.

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