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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.”
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.