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Parents, Community Members Seek Accountability from District 67 Board, Superintendent

Task force doesn't appease audience, who want the resignations of superintendent, board members who handled John Steinert's case in 2009.

 

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Despite the taking action Sunday night to accept John Steinert’s resignation as principal of over a sexting conviction in 2009 and form a task force to strengthen the district’s policies on harassment and the use of social media, audience members sought accountability in the form of resignations by Superintendent Harry Griffith and the board.

From the outset, comments were directed primarily at Griffith, who sat silent during both public comment sessions. Board president Julia Wold was the only one to respond to the speakers.

Lake Forest resident Michael Beacham set the tone when he told the board in the first public comment session prior to the board’s closed door meeting, “We need new leadership in District 67 in order to get past this.”

After the board revealed its action and voted unanimously to accept Steinert’s resignation, Lake Forest resident Jerry Tunney directed his comments directly at Griffith.

“He has bungled this tragedy for two years,” Tunney said. “This has been a total cover-up. Is this how my tax dollars are being spent? I hope not.”

Lake Forest resident Chris Munns, who is a principal in the Chicago Public School system and has two children at Deer Path, echoed Tunney’s thoughts.

“Shame on you,” she said. “You had a chance two years ago to rectify this.”

Lake Forest resident Kevin Carden asked the board if an independent investigation would be conducted into the district's actions, but Wold did not answer the question and thanked him for his comment.

Hannah Emmanuele, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the District 115 School Board last spring, repeated Carden's request. Wold did not answer the question directly, but said she would have to discuss this with the rest of the board, and that an answer would be forthcoming by the Dec. 14 board meeting.

Carden returned and asked the board if it will investigate whether other acts of harassment by Steinert were made. Griffith later said the district will conduct such an investigation.

When asked why the board would create a task force to look at school district policies that were in place two years ago when the incident took place, Wold explained, “We need to take corrective action to see this doesn’t happen again and make recommendations in that vein.”

But talk of a task force was not what the audience saw as a fix to this problem.

“How many of you were on the board in 2009,” asked one of the speakers.

Board members Laurie Rose, Jeff Pinderski and Wold raised their hands.

When asked if she would resign, Wold said no.

“I don’t think we need a task force,” said Beacham, who spoke a second time. “We need leadership. A true leader would have done more in 2009. A true leader would resign along with the board members who were on the board at that time. I’m embarrassed to call you my school board members.”

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Deer Path Middle School will have new leadership starting Monday when Andy Hendrickson, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, will serve as interim principal until a successor is chosen.

Students will participate in a 10-minute classroom meeting Monday with an assistant principal, psychologist or school counselor, but they will not discuss the specifics of Steinert’s case. Parents can opt to take their child out of the meetings if they wish.

LFFamilyof5 November 21, 2011 at 06:54 AM
Willful ignorance, plain and simple. Too much trust with too little oversight and NO accountability. What will the Board do now?
LAKE BLUFFER DUFFER November 21, 2011 at 02:11 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.
EK November 21, 2011 at 02:59 PM
Harry Griffith essentially runs a multi-million dollar corporation along with the BOE. He has not done his job. He will be rewarded with an astronomical pension (see http://www.freedompub.org/profiles/blogs/lake-forest-superintendent-dr ) at the end of the year when he retires and leave us to clean up his mess. Am I the only one who sees something wrong here? The BOE was elected to represent the taxpayers not Harry. It is time they remember this. Watching him on TV last night telling the reporters he didn't see the reason he should resign, as he did nothing wrong, was the height of smugness. He admits he did not check the cel's text messages when the phone was returned! He did not follow up on the police report, he did not follow up on the LF police liaison, he did not seek adequate legal council (or they settled with the woman & we do not know this), he did not inform parents and the list goes on & on. Indeed the list of omissions is large and enough to let him go. Why then is the board holding on to him? Why are they sending a message to young girls and women through out the district that they will tolerate & even hide this sort of behavior? I advise all to look up what Harry Griffith stands to loose and why he hid what he hid.
Lispless in LF November 21, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Despite the anxiety and embarrassment over this whole situation, it appears that the mistake made was a procedural one. Did you know that a follow-up to check for a police report that is no longer redacted could enable learning if new, additional information exists? I didn't know that. For a period of time in this case, those involved missed the chance of such discovery, and this case completely changed from “electronic harassment” to “sexting”. Everyone missed this discovery opportunity (our Board, our Superintendent, our Human Resources department, and our lawyers), Going forward, a task force can make sure that solid procedures are designed to involve the right people at the right time in the right way. Perhaps we can partner with our Police department(s) for help in better understanding cases and procedures and the FOIA. Regarding police reports, how will we immediately detect whenever anyone of interest (possibly all board members and administrators, all school employees, and all subcontractors and volunteers that enter our schools) enters a ‘police report filed and ruling pending’ status and then how do we manage them in a legal and effective way until they reach a ‘ruling released and public’ status? What exactly should we and can we require everyone to do and not to do until their case is completed and all details are known? I believe community members are invited to join the task force that will sort through this...
Really? November 21, 2011 at 04:37 PM
EK, please be honest with your link. It is to your Tea Party group, written by your members without footnoted in fact. Please do not use this incident to mount a "coupe" against the BOE that was lost in the last election. Let us view this situation for what it is.
Educator November 21, 2011 at 07:04 PM
If we are to salvage District 67’s reputation after this nightmare, there are two irrelevant issues that keep distracting us: 1) Dr. Griffith’s salary, and 2) the actual content of the texts. Whether we pay Griffith $50,000 or $500,000, he and the Board are expected to uphold a standard of professional excellence and protect the reputation of our district. Every school district opens its doors to interns, consultants, practicum students, and student teachers to observe and learn from what they see in practice. They may not be staff members but they deserve to be treated with respect and professionalism. As soon as the Board learned that a visiting intern was subsequently harassed by the principal to the point of feeling she needed to contact the police to make him stop, they had all the information they needed. They needed to protect future visitors and preserve our reputation among teaching colleges in the area who send their students to us. Even with the redacted report, the Board knew Steinert confessed and was convicted of harassing someone who came to his building in a professional capacity. Whether the texts were “flirtatious” or “vulgar,” is incidental. Any board member who felt Steinert could be trusted to represent the district and encourage the next generation of professional educators should step down. And any Board member who actually thought this day might not come should pay better attention to the realities of electronic communication.
Gary November 21, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Shirley, EK submitted information that applies to our discussion. You did not refute it, but attempted to smear the source. Do you have anything to add on this issue, or are you going to continue the politics of personal destruction that have come to be the hallmark of our current leadership? Apparently this town needs a "coupe".
Jody Hillger November 21, 2011 at 09:25 PM
well said
Really? November 22, 2011 at 02:43 AM
Agreed, Jody. @Educator: succinct & on point. Mistakes made; responsibility accepted; remedies being put in place; move on.
Michael Beacham November 22, 2011 at 11:05 AM
Shirley: You must not have been at any of the meetings. Responsibility has not been accepted. And appropriate remedies are not being put in place. The BOE is handling this current matter no better than they handled the Steinert affair in 2009. We can't move on because the community has lost trust in the BOE and the Superintendent.
Lispless in LF November 22, 2011 at 01:29 PM
No Michael, I respectfully disagree 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 02:19 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.
LAKE BLUFFER DUFFER November 24, 2011 at 12:56 AM
I agree with all of you that Harry's salary is irrelevant to the fact he mishandled and mismanaged a situation that put our children at risk. It doesn't matter if we pay Harry 1 milliion, if he isn't doing his job and fails to discover something as simple as he could have here with a competent HR person or follow-up, he should resign, he does not deserve 1 more dollar for a poor performance.
LAKE BLUFFER DUFFER November 24, 2011 at 12:58 AM
I agree with those of you saying that Harry's salary is irrelevant. You are right it has nothing to do with the fact he mishandled and mismanaged a situation that put our children at risk. It doesn't matter if we pay Harry 1 milliion, if he isn't doing his job and fails to discover something as simple as he could have here with a competent HR person or follow-up, he should resign. He does not deserve 1 more dollar for his poor performance.

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