In an atmosphere made tense by continuing calls for leadership change at Brooks Middle School and accusations that those calls were racially motivated, the District 97 Board of Education passed two measures late last Wednesday night, one of which will end Flora Green's tenure as principal.
"The board is looking for new leadership in that building," Board President Ade Onayemi said after the meeting. "We need a change in leadership there, and hopefully one that will take a new direction."
The board voted 5-2 to continue with a process that would reclassify Green as a teacher next fall. A private hearing on the move in executive session preceded the meeting. By state law, Green has five days to request a public hearing to argue against reclassification.
But a second motion, to direct outgoing Supt. John C. Fagan to explore "administrative options" to find a position that would "make the highest and best use of Ms. Green's experience and skills," passed unanimously.
Board Vice President Carolyn Newberry Schwartz, who made the motion, said after the meeting that the position would not be another principal position. Fagan could not say immediately whether the position would be at the central office.
Unlike the reclassification process, which allows Green hearings to fight the move, an administrative reassignment to a position of similar rank and salary could be made at will.
Green's salary for her remaining two years before retirement has been set by a retirement agreement, regardless of what position she holds?#34;including teacher?#34;in the district.
Onayemi said on Monday he had not heard whether a public hearing request had been received. Fagan could not be reached for comment as schools are on spring break this week. Onayemi did not know whether the 5-day window for a request involved business days or calendar days.
Green's acceptance of an administrative reassignment would obviate the public hearing. "It's really up to her. It's part of her due process," Onayemi said, who added he would have liked to avoid the reclassification process in toto.
"I would have done everything to avoid bringing an employee to this sort of public display. That doesn't help anybody."
Asked after last week's meeting whether she would request a public hearing on the reclassification move, Green said, "I won't answer any questions from WEDNESDAY JOURNAL."
If a request is received, the district would need to post notice of a public meeting at least 48 hours in advance of the hearing. However, the board will not change to its newly elected membership until April 13.
Sharon Patchak-Layman and Michelle Harton voted against the reclassification motion. Harton said it is not surprising that the district has faced difficulty with the now nearly 3-year-old new middle school model, and that Green had not been given enough time. She also said the long-term precedent that the reclassification might establish gave her an "un-readiness" to support it.
Patchak-Layman felt Green was not alone in leading the school, that the superintendent and administration shared some of that burden, and that singling her out was not appropriate.
The votes came at approximately 11:20 p.m. after a meeting that began for board members at 6:30 p.m. During the public portion of the meeting, which began at 7:30 p.m., community members, black as well as white, spoke both in support of Green and in favor of removing her.
Supporters praised Green's performance and said complaints from parents about her were racially motivated. Those in favor of the reclassification said new leadership was needed for the school to improve.
Meanwhile, the board approved contracts for seven district principals at the meeting. Not named in the contract were Green, Irving's interim Principal John Hodge, and Whittier's Paula O'Malley, who will retire in June.