Search for new Mann principal underway

District hopes to hire by June

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

The District 97 Board of Education on Monday officially accepted the resignation of Sam LeDeaux as principal of Mann Elementary School.

It was a quick vote, around 9:30 p.m., after the board came out of executive session. Monday's special board meeting began at 4 p.m. with several agenda items and scheduled executive sessions planned. The vote on LeDeaux was unanimous; one member, Jim Gates, was absent from the meeting. 

After the vote, Supt. Al Roberts said the search for a new Mann principal will begin immediately with the hope of having a person selected by May. LeDeaux will stay on at Mann through the end of the school year and help with the leadership transition.

Roberts said the district's search team will include central office staff and Mann school stakeholders. Roberts said the team will forward him 2-3 finalists and he will conduct the final interviews with candidates. 

The district is looking to now fill two principal posts. The Whittier School position is open with Principal Carol Young set to retire in June. The school district announced LeDeaux's resignation on Friday following weeks of uncertainty concerning his job status. D97 elementary school principals are on one-year contracts with LeDeaux's among those up for renewal this spring. 

Friday's announcement was a joint statement by LeDeaux and Roberts. LeDeaux has been Mann's principal since 2012, making the next hire the third principal in two years for the northwest Oak Park school. 

LeDeaux's resignation comes as a blow to many Mann parents who over the last four weeks mounted a public campaign to keep him as principal. About 60 parents attended a March 18, D97 school board meeting to show their support. Many wore "Mann" T-shirts and buttons reading, "We Stand With Sam." Parents also put up a Facebook page and signs in Oak Park in support of LeDeaux.

Since Friday's announcement, parents have expressed disappointment and frustration about losing LeDeaux. In an email to Wednesday Journal, Monday, Mann parent Chris Ohlhoff said he's very disappointed that LeDeaux won't be back next year. 

"It's bewildering that it came to this. I believe Dr. Roberts and the board of education have failed the Mann community by not making every effort to retain Mr. LeDeaux, and I don't have much confidence in their leadership moving forward," Ohlhoff wrote. 

Nara Schoenberg, the mother of two Mann students, was the only parent who showed up and spoke at the start of Monday's board meeting. She said parents began hearing rumors weeks ago that LeDeaux's job was the on the line and that he wouldn't be returning next year as principal. 

Schoenberg, who spoke with Wednesday Journal following her comments to the board, said parents are disappointed but pretty much resigned to the fate. 

She and other parents feel they weren't truly listened to by the board or Roberts, and the process should have been more transparent.

"This was kind of a last stand — the one lone parent speaking," she said of Monday's meeting. "The broad feeling among parents is that we've lost on this one. We've had a great year and a half with Mr. LeDeaux and are sad to see him leave."

Parents have praised LeDeaux's leadership, his involvement with staff and students, and for restoring the school's morale. Schoenberg said he performed well after stepping into a difficult situation. He replaced Nimisha Kumar, who resigned after a D97 investigation uncovered that Mann staff had inappropriately administered the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) in spring of 2012. 

LeDeaux applied for the Mann post when it became vacant and was approved by the board in May 2012. A former assistant principal at both Longfellow Elementary and Julian Middle School, LeDeaux taught in the Chicago Public Schools before joining D97.

Upon his hiring, Roberts touted LeDeaux's leadership but the two appeared to be at odds later concerning Mann's future. Both acknowledged as much in their joint statement.

"During the past few weeks, the two of us have discussed the vision for Mann School. While it is true that we have not been in lockstep on every issue, we have always shared a strong, vested interest in Mann's success and the creation of a productive, nurturing learning environment. … Although progress has been made in this critical endeavor, we have come to the conclusion that a change in leadership is best for everyone involved," the statement read.

Shortly after the board's vote on LeDeaux, Roberts said the goal is to have permanent principals for both Mann and Whittier in place for next fall. 

Joint statement from Sam LeDeaux and Supt. Al Roberts

During the past few weeks, the two of us have discussed the vision for Mann School. While it is true that we have not been in lockstep on every issue, we have always shared a strong, vested interest in Mann's success and the creation of a productive, nurturing learning environment aimed at fostering the growth and development of our students.

Although progress has been made in this critical endeavor, we have come to the conclusion that a change in leadership is best for everyone involved.

We realize that change is often unpopular. We also understand and appreciate that having three principals over a two-year time period is not ideal for any school. However, we are firmly committed to working together between now and the end of the school year to ensure that the transition to a new leader is as smooth and seamless as possible. In addition, we are hopeful that the members of the community will accept the district's invitation to aid in the principal search. Your feedback is both valued and vital to the success of this important process.

With the joint resolution of this matter, we will turn our attention to the remainder of this school year and the work that must be accomplished in the days ahead. We want to thank everyone who has raised questions, offered their insight or expressed their views regarding this important matter. Your steadfast commitment to our schools and the children we serve is a testament to the character and integrity of the citizens of Oak Park.

Statement from Supt. Roberts released Tuesday concerning LeDeaux and the principal search

I want to thank Sam LeDeaux for his service to District 97 during the past four years. I appreciated the passion for education he displayed during his tenure here, and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

The search for Mann's new principal will begin immediately. We are developing a tentative timeline and process for filling this important position, which includes the goal of presenting a candidate for approval at the Board of Education meeting on May 13.

As Mr. LeDeaux and I alluded to in our joint statement, change, especially in important leadership positions, is never easy. However, we will be working closely and collaboratively with our various stakeholders during the next few weeks to identify the individual whose skills, qualities and characteristics will contribute to Mann's long-term success and help our students continue to learn, grow and achieve.

Reader Comments

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Posted: April 7th, 2014 8:14 PM

This doesn't matter in the big picture--so he missed a concert. Big deal. I'm just pointing out the fact that he wasn't present at a large district function he has previously attended that occurred the day after LeDeaux resigned, and that somehow D97 is spinning it that it's the music department's fault for putting him on their agenda. What a crock. Not that anyone would have booed him or confronted him at the concert, but it's a classless thing to do and leave his employees looking bad.


Posted: April 7th, 2014 8:06 PM

I made that comment because I don't believe that the music department controls Roberts' agenda. Either Roberts himself or his secretary/admin keeps his calendar, and it's inconceivable to me that he a) didn't know about it and/or b) the music department contacted him or his secretary to invite him and then it wasn't put on his calendar. If he somehow doesn't maintain control of his own appointments (either by himself or thru an assistant) then he's an idiot or has severe time management issues.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2014 6:49 PM

JD, Peter said that Roberts was added to the agenda without his knowledge. How is Roberts the idiot (your word, not mine) in such a scenario? It wasn't his agenda. It was the music department's agenda.

JD from OP  

Posted: April 7th, 2014 5:35 PM

Peter- Thanks for actually responding about Dr. Roberts agenda. I proposed the question not because I really care about the answer, but just to stir the pot. However, I call BS on your spin about the music department adding him to the agenda without informing him. He's the frigging SUPERINTENDENT of D97--if he allows his agenda to be added to without approving it then he's an idiot. Further, this wasn't any random D97 function--it was the MAIN chorus performance with over 600 students.


Posted: April 7th, 2014 4:58 PM

@ John. - the string has improved greatly know that Peter has enlighted us with his insights and wisdom. In fact, this board should become required reading for all Oak PArkers.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 7th, 2014 3:45 PM

It's intriguing that D97's Peter Traczyk added his comment to a WJ Comments "string" to defend the district's superintendent while stating that he is reluctant to give the thread any merit. As he is now part of the string, has the string gotten better or worse?

Peter Traczyk from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 7th, 2014 1:53 PM

I'm reluctant to even give this thread any merit, but here are the facts. Dr. Roberts attended a 4-9:20pm Special Board Meeting Monday night and a 4-8:15pm collective bargaining session Wednesday night. Tuesday night he was working on a project for the Board as a result of information learned Monday night. The music department added Dr. Roberts to the agenda without informing him because he has so often attended every other concert. While I support our Board and staff in attending D97 events (I saw at least two other Board members there), it's a little unreasonable to expect attendance at every event. This was a simple miscommunication on a music performance program. Like all Superintendents, I can assure you Dr. Roberts attends many meetings and events outside of his regular work day.

R Lerner  

Posted: April 7th, 2014 10:35 AM

No, Bridgett, apparently I am Chris Jasculca because, according to OP, I blindly support Roberts and the board, which led Mann Mom to speculate about my real identity. Sorry, folks, I'm just a person who disagrees with the Mann supporters on the LeDeaux situation and thinks it is ridiculous how that conversation has now turned to why the superintendent wasn't at a concert.

OP Transplant  

Posted: April 7th, 2014 10:08 AM

This is descending into outright idiocy. No one posting here has the slightest idea why Mr. LeDeaux resigned, although many people are assuming their guesses to be fact. No one knows why Dr. Roberts didn't attend this concert, although once again the people who have no idea sound very certain that they're guessing right. The truth is, in all districts, principals resign sometimes, and superintendents don't attend every concert.

JD from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2014 2:43 AM

R Lerner- It's not our job to ask him why he wasn't there considering that he has attended every other year. However, I will ask right now "Dr. Roberts, why weren't you at the D97 concert?" I'm certain that he will respond in the comments section. It's his job. A leader needs to show his/her presence particularly in times of crisis/unpopularity. Yes, it's a choral concert for young kids but it's very important for those who participated. Could I hear and see my son? No, but I went.

JD from Oak park  

Posted: April 7th, 2014 2:33 AM

The person who made the introductions at the beginning of the concert was prepared to introduce Dr. Roberts and in fact had asked him to come up. She then had to cover for the fact that he wasn't there. It was an awkward moment. My immediate reaction was that he didn't have the guts to attend given the issue with LeDeaux, and that he didn't even have the decency to notify anyone at the concert that he wouldn't attend. Perhaps there was some kind of "emergency" but I doubt it.

Former District 97 Teacher from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2014 11:44 PM

@Dist 97 got...Your comment about my pension seems irrelevant to this discussion. Did you know that I struggled for years to support my family on the pitifully poor wages I received at the beginning of my career? Did you know that teachers do not get Social Security through thei teaching jobs? Did you know that teachers contribute a portion of their paychecks to their pensions? STOLE THEM? No.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2014 7:30 PM

Are you saying that "Bridgett from Oak Park" who has posted consistently on for over a year is really Chris, the communications guy for D97? If so, then you're doing to Chris (and me, Bridgett) what you are doing to Roberts. Lame. Almost as lame as thinking Roberts needs to issue a statement regarding his whereabouts the night of the concert. Good grief.


Posted: April 6th, 2014 7:24 PM

@ Lerner you have zero cred at this point. all your posts blindly support the board/roberts. it is clear you are one of the two parties. There is no rationale to your posts. ... it is always, you dont get it, your dont know what they know or all the reasons we are all asses.


Posted: April 6th, 2014 6:07 PM

If it was a family emergency, of course a simple announcement at the concert or in an email to parents might have gone a long way. Chris, you're doing a fine job here defending the supt and definately earning your salary, but why not just tell us directly?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2014 5:08 PM

I had the same thought as R Lerner.

Mann Mom  

Posted: April 6th, 2014 2:49 PM

R Lerner, I'm beginning to think your real name is "Chris Jasculca."

Mann Mustang  

Posted: April 6th, 2014 12:24 PM

@district 97 got what it asked for... "Enjoy the pension you stole." Really?? You're obviously very uninformed about the pension situation. Teachers didn't design or devise the pension system. The government did. Your ill advised and snarky comments just demonstrate that you're a horse's ass.

R Lerner  

Posted: April 6th, 2014 11:08 AM

From what I understand, Roberts has been at this concert every other year he has been superintendent. Has anyone bothered to actually ask him why he wasn't there this year? Perhaps there was a family emergency, or he had a conflict in his schedule. Like the situation with LeDeaux, it seems people are far too willing to pass judgement with incomplete information.

D97 got what it was looking for  

Posted: April 6th, 2014 10:46 AM

In fact, the line that the concert was a "major event in the life of District 97" reveals that you are just part of the problem around here. Sorry, a choral concert should not be a "major event in the life of District 97." Enjoy the pension you stole.

D97 got what it was looking for  

Posted: April 6th, 2014 10:43 AM

@former teach: This whole sordid episode was stupid from the start with people, like you, yakking away without pertinent information. Of course, the choral concert exposes the fact that members of this community are more outraged about choral concerts than the fact that too many kids in D97 cannot read, or do math, at grade level. Let me know when people start getting riled up about that as opposed to the Superintendent missing a dumb choral concert.

Former District 97 Teacher from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2014 11:25 PM

D97 got what it was looking for: Calling people "idiots" is not a very effective way of making your point, in fact, it works against you.

Former District 97 Teacher from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2014 11:23 PM

D97 got what it was looking for- -Yes, you may be right about why Roberts was hired as superintendent. But, you are not right about calling Tuesday's event a "stupid concert". I believe that 800 students participated. This is a major event in the life of District 97. The students demonstrated their very high level of skill and group effort, resulting from hard work and great leadership by their teachers. Past superintendents have always attended and even made speeches of welcome.

D97 got what it was looking for  

Posted: April 5th, 2014 11:28 AM

When he was hired, D97 was looking for someone with experience in passing a referendum. That was what you wanted, that is what you got. I'll say this, who cares if he went to a stupid concert? I would hope he has better stuff to do. You people are idiots.

Hey Brendan  

Posted: April 5th, 2014 11:26 AM

You might be a little more credible if you had the ability to type and/or use the English language properly.

Former District 97 Teacher from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2014 8:50 AM

Beware, citizens! When the next superintendent is hired, let's try to find someone more in tune with our community's values. Let's try to find someone who understands the process of education a little better. Let's find someone who understand how to work with people.

Former District 97 Teacher from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2014 8:48 AM

@Dist97 Parent: I am really shocked to hear that Dr. Roberts did not attend that concert. Hundreds upon hundreds of students participated in that and they performed at a very high level. I have a feeling that Dr. Roberts lacks the understanding about the importance of the arts. And, in that, he is at variance with our community, which values the arts very highly. His main goal is a technocratic approach to improving test scores, apparently.


Posted: April 5th, 2014 8:17 AM

For all of you with kids in elementary schools, start learning more about the middle school and demanding change there. It is the worst academic experience my kids have ever had. The high school teaches and counselors shake there heads at the fact that the incoming freshman from our middle schools are ill prepared.

todd kahn from oak park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 11:34 AM

" In addition, we are hopeful that the members of the community will accept the district's invitation to aid in the principal search. Your feedback is both valued and vital to the success of this important process." I can only conclude from this statement in his letter that Al Roberts is dumber than a 5th grader. Our "valued" feedback was to keep Sam LeDeaux. So I guess our feedback is valuable as long as he agrees with it.


Posted: April 2nd, 2014 10:29 AM

Where is the "news" here? Wouldn't it be a foregone conclusion that the search for a principal needs to happen? Or do qualified candidates just fall out of the sky? Also, isn't this story done, done, done? Certainly there is more important and interesting news stories to cover than the obvious (that a search is underway). Come on WJ!

D97 Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 10:06 AM

FYI Superintendent Roberts. You may want to pencil in your calendar June 3 at the OPRF Auditorium. That is the 8th grade graduation.


Posted: April 2nd, 2014 9:52 AM

Al Roberts has underperformed in his duties and its clear that his day to day involvement with any of the schools is minimal. Our community deserves more from anyone who occupies that position. Maybe Roberts could take a page from Sue Bridges book and learn what it means to be an "involved" administrator.

D97 Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 7:28 AM

I am guessing that Superintendent Roberts was very busy Tuesday evening finding a replacement principal. That would explain his absence at the District 97 Choral concert held at the OPRF Auditorium. I am sure he would have appreciated all the hard work the children and their instructors put into this event if he would have graced everyone with his presence. Working two jobs to make ends meet, I made arrangements weeks ago not to miss this event. He obviously had better things to do.

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