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District 67 Board Accepts Deer Path Middle School Principal's Resignation

Angry audience seeks superintendent's resignation for the way Steinert's case was handled.

 

The School District 67 Board of Education voted unanimously to accept the resignation of John Steinert as principal of Deer Path Middle School in a special meeting Sunday night at district headquarters in Lake Forest.

But the angry audience members in attendance, a mix of parents and community members, wanted a second resignation from Superintendent Harry Griffith.

Griffith said he would not resign because of new information, , surrounding Steinert’s conviction of sexting a Lake Forest College intern in 2009.

“The situation is different now than it was in 2009,” Griffith said. “If I had had this information in 2009, we would not be here tonight.”

After meeting for more than 90 minutes Sunday night in closed session, Board president Julia Wold did not ask for Griffith’s resignation as part of her post meeting remarks nor did she report that Griffith had offered it.

Griffith said he understood “there is anger in the community,” and he accepted that his accountability was being called into question over the handling of Steinert’s employment.

“Of course I take accountability,” Griffith said to a gathering of media outlets. “I wish I had had that information in 2009. Absolutely every bit of it. I didn’t realize the information was there.”

Over an eight-month period starting in May of 2008 and ending in December of 2009, Steinert, 40, sent more than 50 text messages on his school district-issued cell phone and a lewd photo of his penis to the 22-year-old intern, who ignored the messages or told him to stop it. He met the intern while she was shadowing a school resource office at the middle school.

In 2009, Steinert was convicted of misdemeanor harassment and District 67 required him to seek counseling and temporarily froze his salary, according to  Griffith.

Griffith said the district sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Gurnee Police on Steinert’s case after his arrest, and the police report they received was heavily redacted. Griffith said their FOIA request had asked for all documents on the case.

“I did not understand that the redacted document would be eventually unredacted when the court ruled on it,” Griffith said. “That was an error we made in not getting the right information at that time. We thought we had the right information in 2009.”

Griffith said the board, the human resource department and the school’s attorney were all involved. “It just did not occur to us that that was the protocol of the court,” Griffith said.

that he realized there was an unredacted report available.

“We had information that this was about texting between two adults.,” he said. “When we actually saw what the real material was just three days ago, we realized it was more about sexting.”

Steinert’s last day of compensation with District 67 was Friday, according to Wold, and Griffith added there will be no severance of any kind. Griffith noted Steinert has worked for two other school districts besides District 67, so his criminal record “is unrelated to what his particular pension is.”

As part of its action Sunday night, the board will hold a second meeting with parents at 5 p.m. Monday (Nov. 21), and a third one will be held at 5 p.m. Nov. 29 before the school board meeting that night.

A task force will be formed involving both District 67 staff and community members. The task force will:

  • review district policies and consider administrative guidelines for handling situations in which employees are charged with criminal conduct.
  • broaden district policies to include anti-harassment activity beyond district students, staff and employees;
  • establish a task force (including community members) to review student and staff electronic and social media policies and procedures;

The District will also suspend the youth officer program at Deer Path Middle School immediately, pending further review, and if this program is reinstated a new officer would be assigned.

The Lake Forest City Council will meet in closed session at 7 p.m. Monday to discuss charges against the school resource officer, who allegedly made sexual remarks to the same intern, who told Gurnee Police. Mayor James Cowhey is expected to make a statement after the meeting.

LAKE BLUFFER DUFFER November 21, 2011 at 01:45 PM
Oh MY! Oh MY HARRY, listen to how you sound. I mean the fact you even use "if I had known" in the same sentence you admit you knew of the arrest and allegatgions and "saw" a redacted arrest report, that alone is enough to demonstrate your horribly misguided hiring and the need for your termination. Any administrator with a years experience in employment knows you follow up on documents like this that raise more questions than answers. This wasn't for a loading dock job, this was a job with OUR CHILDREN. The fact it was redacted makes it even MORE suspect, don't you think. Your HR person and you must go. If the board does not terminate you, we should all vote in the next election to terminate the board. Many other qualified candidates that did not have a redacted police report and an arrest were available. What a shame if you don't resign. Take responsibility for your mistake.
Publius November 21, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Clearly, Harry and the board are there to serve their own selfish interest. If they cared about serving the people and the students they would have resigned. In addition to all the other investigations needed, we the people need to have all relevant financial accounts audited. Nothing they have done or will do in the future will be trusted. At this time they are the problem in the community.
Really? November 21, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Vicky...nice to hear a forecast that is probably not unreasonable! And, nice to see another person NOT afraid to use their REAL name when conversing here. So many love to comment in anonymity!
Really? November 21, 2011 at 03:58 PM
Publius, what is to be gained by their resignation? How would such a disruption help the district or the children? How long have you been a part of this community? Have you watched this district grow and change? To make a statement that "nothing they have done...will be trusted" is ludicrous.
Publius November 21, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Listen @Shirley, how could you not agree that the board needs to resign?? This cover up has negated any good that the board has done over the years and will put into question any and all decisions they make in the future unless a new board is elected. We need fair and moral people representing our community; not people who lack the inability to see right and wrong!
Really? November 21, 2011 at 05:45 PM
@Publius (whoever you are, since you don't use your real name as I readily do): Again, I ask you, what is to be gained by the BOE's resignation? Why does this negate all years of progress made by Dr. Griffith (and some members of this BOE)? What gives you the standing to judge that they are not moral individuals?
Pat Lyon November 21, 2011 at 06:01 PM
I don't think people are questioning their morality. We're questioning their competence.
Really? November 21, 2011 at 06:16 PM
@Chris (no last name): Publius (aka anonymous) clearly said such above.
Really? November 21, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Further, I have a huge problem with accusations immorality and suggestions of incompetence made under the cloak of anonymity. If a discussion is to take place in a community forum, let it be such as it would be at an open meeting. The same persons accusing others here of lack of transparency and cover-up are not even willing to use their real names! What is that about?
EK November 21, 2011 at 08:11 PM
Having children in the district who have been on the receiving end of some not so nice actions when a real name is used. It is better to keep them safe and voice an opinion with out a last name then put them in peril. Anonymity does not make the truth any less real. The truth is neither the BOE or Harry Griffith did their jobs correctly. In any corporate setting Harry would be gone for his lack of due diligence, misrepresentation, and covering up. By his own words the phone was returned to him and he didn't think to look at it!?! That would have been the first thing anyone did. Not to mention not following the outcome and getting a true police report. The Gurnee police called the LFPD I am sure there was some sort of call to Harry as the district head since the phone was registered to the school. The truth is the act itself & cover-up exposed this this district & its taxpayers to liability. That alone is reason enough to clean house.
Lake Forest 60045 November 21, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Jim, we all appreciate the work that you are doing to cover this issue. I've been in LF for 15 years and have never seen negative coverage by the chicagoland media this bad for our community. I'm wondering here on this, while no one has heard from Steinert on this (and who can blame him) Harry's tune quickly changed on Friday from supporting Steinert to someone who couldn't recommend him for employment. Harry says Steinert lied to the district when they investigated 3 years ago and was not forthcoming with information. What exactly did they know 3 years ago? Seems to me that it's worth looking into if Steinert lied or if Harry knew the exact details of the situation. What type of information can be provided from the district: what about the actual report from the investigation 3 years ago? Jim, can you get that info?
Gary November 21, 2011 at 08:24 PM
I have been to the meetings identified myself and spoke as many others in our community have. Have you gone to the meetings, identified yourself, and defended Harry and BOE? Only one person has done so, and she accused the parents of being a "mob". Was that you. It sounds like your style.
William November 21, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Mistakes were made by the BOARD and especially Mr. Steinert who has children and a wife that are shocked and embarrassed. The Board is not to blame for the actions of Mr. Steinert and they have shown to be excellent in the past years. Changing them will not change things. The actions of one does not mean that everyone else should be found guilty.
Publius November 21, 2011 at 09:25 PM
Shirley, you can't be serious? Who cares if I am using an anonymous name or if Chris doesn't use his last name? It's unfortunate that my pseudonym is distracting you from my ideas, but I believe keeping one's identity concealed forces one to focus on the quality of the argument rather than the personality of the author. Let's focus on resolving this issue with civil discourse instead of emotional vitriol. Please look at the real problem here, Shirely, and not my anonymity. The real problem is the board, Harry, the principal, and the cover up.
Jim Powers November 21, 2011 at 09:32 PM
The district provided a copy of the redacted police report they used to base their actions on. It's attached to this story: http://patch.com/A-nP3c
Lake Forest 60045 November 21, 2011 at 09:43 PM
Jim, what about the internal report, the findings that the district compiled from their own investigation?
Publius November 21, 2011 at 11:54 PM
We need to get statements under oath from Harry, his board & the LF police chief about what they knew, when, etc. Seems like we may have either incompetents trying to run our public institutions or liars. That's a task for an independent investigator. If these so-called public servants have nothing to hide, they would welcome such an investigation.
Jim Powers November 22, 2011 at 01:10 AM
For those of you who did not attend the 5 p.m. meeting tonight, here is a brief synopsis of what transpired. The School District will contact the Regional Superintendent, Roycealee Wood, to have her office conduct an investigation into the actions of the board and the superintendent. They will also contact independent counsel to do the same. Dr. Griffith was asked to resign again and he again said no. He said he was naive and should have been more thorough in his investigation of Mr. Steinert, but said there was no coverup. He said he did not send the redacted police report to the district's attorney, which he agreed would have been the thing to do. The reason the board chose to accept Mr. Steinert's resignation rather than fire him seemed to come across more as a matter of economics. By accepting his resignation, he immediately comes off the district's payroll, no unemployment comp, etc... If they fire him, Mr Steinert is entitled to a hearing, an attorney paid by the district and remains on the district payroll until the matter is resolved. They said the reason they gave Mr. Steinert a second chance was due to the nature of the offense to their knowledge at that time was misdemeanor harassment. They believed he was a very strong leader who made a mistake. The District will continue forward in its interview process for a new superintedent to replace Dr. Griffith when he retires The search committee is slated to present seven candidates next Monday.
Michael Beacham November 22, 2011 at 03:12 AM
From the comments that we heard in the meeting this evening, the District is not prepared to interview candidates for a new Superintendent to replace Griffith upon his retirement. It seems that the community has lost trust in the Board of Education members to do anything, let alone to select the next Superintendent. They cannot even deal effectively with the current Superintendent.
Really? November 22, 2011 at 04:20 AM
Interviews begin in about 2 weeks. Our current BOE is working diligently on this.
DL November 22, 2011 at 07:01 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
Lispless in LF November 22, 2011 at 01:32 PM
I respectfully disagree with most posters here after attending the meetings myself. A number of people with personal agendas are still on the attack and in my opinion they do not represent our community. The Superintendent and BOE has clearly and compassionately admitted that they wish they could have discovered the facts and initiated action sooner and now a task force will begin to review and improve procedures to make sure what has been learned (subsequently gaining access to non-redacted reports) will result in appropriate discovery in the future. This was embarrassing for our district but we shall move on. At the public meeting last night, while a number of important questions and concerns were discussed, some of the people who spoke were so extreme in their opinions and accusations, and have “unique background circumstances”, and so I fear they may never be satisfied. I can’t believe how some people have such deep conspiracy theories and think that everything is cover-ups and lies, but this was no doubt a great opportunity for them to take the stage. While they are entitled to their individual opinions, they do not represent our community.
Really? November 22, 2011 at 01:50 PM
@Lispless in LF: excellently articulated. Thank you. Additionally, the few to whom you are referring are getting the majority of the tv news coverage, as usual. What a shame. As in any business, family, or school district (even), handling of situations like this are 20/20. We did/do have good leadership.
Really? November 22, 2011 at 01:59 PM
EK: point well understood on the anonymity. But, I respectfully disagree with your assessment. I suspect that Dr. Griffith was taking advice from district counsel. I do not believe there is a "cover-up". I have been here since before Dr. Griffith and watched the changes in this district - and in the high school. He has brought us from a system of parents running the district to a professionally run organization, among a multitude of other achievements. This was a mistake, somewhere in the chain of leadership for which he is taking full responsibility. Steinhart has taken responsibility. This can/will be explained both at school and in homes to our children. Now, let's move on.
Really? November 22, 2011 at 02:10 PM
and...@Gary: Gary Finley right??? Didn't our kids go to school together? No, wasn't me to whom you referred. But, you know my name. I'm easy to find!
Really? November 22, 2011 at 02:11 PM
@William: AGREED.
DL November 22, 2011 at 07:24 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.
LFMom November 22, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Tribune editorial says Griffith and three BOE members "should quit." http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-lakeforest-20111122,0,6376701.story
Atticus November 22, 2011 at 08:45 PM
@Shirley Surely Shirley you must realize that every time you speak you tighten the noose around the necks of the school district rulers. You, like they, think you're "the smartest person in the room", & we all know what happens to people like that. So keep telling the taxpayers that Harry & his board "only" knew that their $170,000 a yr principal only pled guilty to the misdemeanor of electronic harassment --- that admission by itself - nothing further is needed by reasonable people ---seals their fate. We look forward to your next inadvertent conviction - this time over the claims in the media about a similar scandal at the LF police department. And your attack on our credibility for remaining anonymous ignores the absolute power of Harry & his board to retaliate against our children in school & as they apply to college. As for you flashing your name around - that only reveals you are a zealot appeaser of incompetence by our highly paid & powerful public servants & warns the voting public to never let someone like you around our money. Finally Shirley, this will be the last time I bandy words with you because as they say "one gains nothing by besting a fool."
Really? November 22, 2011 at 09:13 PM
ROFLMAO!!!!

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