By Terry Dean
The District 97 Board of Education should expect to hear from parents of Mann Elementary School at Tuesday's regular board meeting.
Maggie Kelly, co-president of the school's PTO, said some parents do plan to attend Tuesday's meeting to express support for their principal, Sam LeDeaux.
The buzz around Mann, 921 N. Kenilworth, over the last three weeks has been that LeDeaux's job is on the line and that he's not returning as principal next school year. The rumor mill has partly fueled by LeDeaux's two-day absence from the building. According to D97 spokesperson Chris Jasculca, LeDeaux was out sick those two days but returned to the building.
Also fueling the rumor mill is LeDeaux's current contract, which is up at the end of the year. But all D97 principals are on one-year contracts, which are up for annual renewal each spring.
In a kind of pre-emptive strike, Mann parents have mounted a public campaign in support of LeDeaux, who's been the school's principal since 2012.
Kelly said parents wanted to let the board know directly how LeDeaux is doing as principal. She said he's put of lot of "great things" in place at the school in his two years.
"The kids are happy than they've ever been. He's in the classroom everyday. He's challenging the kids to experiment, to be creative and try new things. And the teachers are encouraged to be creative," Kelly said.
The parents' effort caused D97 officials to respond equally publicly to their concerns. D97 Board President Bob Spatz wrote a letter to parents last week. Along with supporting LeDeaux, who previously served as an assistant principal at Longfellow and Julian Middle School, Kelly said parents were concerned about the district's principal evaluation process. Spatz explained that process in his letter to parents.
D97 Supt. Albert Roberts issued a statement last week saying that no decision has been made about any principal contracts thus far.
Kelly said parents wanted to provide the board with a full picture of LeDeaux's work prior to Roberts' recommendation. That, she said, was important because all principal evaluations are not conducted by the superintendent.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education, a superintendent or his/her designee who is certified can conduct evaluations. Kelly added that Roberts has only been in the Mann building only twice this school year, making it difficult to fully gage LeDeaux's work.
In an email to Wednesday Journal Tuesday, Jasculca said the district doesn't have an exact count of Roberts' visits to Mann, but added that the superintendent has visited the school "numerous times," since the start of the school year.
Roberts has also had "numerous conversations with the two certified, trained district administrators who made multiple visits to the building in conjunction with Mr. LeDeaux's evaluation," Jasculca said, adding that Roberts has also met with LeDeaux throughout the year, including "many times with his evaluators present to discuss his evaluation and issues related to his job."
Jasculca also stressed that "a number of important factors and variables" beyond an evaluation are involved concerning decisions about an individual's employment status.
Kelly said she's unsure how many parents plan to attend Tuesday night's meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the boardroom at district headquarters, 970 Madison.