By Terry Dean
After just a year on the job, Joanne Schochat, who oversaw Oak Park Elementary School District 97's human resources department, resigned June 11.
Supt. Albert Roberts would not discuss details about her resignation, because it was a "personnel matter," but said the district has accepted her resignation.
Roberts added that he's also had preliminary talks with Oak Park and River Forest High School, which is conducting its own HR director search, about possibly sharing those duties between the two school districts.
But any partnership there likely won't happened for a couple of years, Roberts stressed.
While talks between the two districts continue, Roberts said D97 is looking for a HR director to hold down the post until any changes take place.
Concerning Schochat, Roberts said she did good work for the district, but he noted there wasn't "a good fit" between her and the district. Schochat agreed with that assessment, Roberts said.
Her resignation was accepted by the D97 Board of Education on June 11.
Schochat was hired in May 2012, replacing former HR administrator Trish Carlson, who retired.
Roberts said Carlson has agreed to return part time to oversee the department and will be paid a "daily wage."
Roberts stressed that he's only had informal talks so far with District 200 Supt. Steven Isoye about sharing HR duties. OPRF will have an interim HR director for the upcoming school year and conduct a formal search for a permanent person next spring.
The high school has been without its assistant superintendent for human resources since March. In April, the D200 school board voted not to renew the contract of Lauren Smith, who's been on administrative leave since March. Isoye has been overseeing the human resources department in the meantime.
Roberts noted OPRF's interim status, adding that there may be ways for the high school and D97 to partner together.
"I'm going to find a way to formally approach District 200 to see if they would like to at least study how we might coordinate our HR efforts," he said.
Schochat, who has a law degree, also served as D97's general counsel, a new position created upon her hiring. She also held that title at her former job at a consolidated school district in Plainfield, where she was also HR director. The general counsel role at D97 was more of an advisory role on specific legal questions that might arise, Roberts said.
The goal was to save money by having an in-house legal expert on staff, but Roberts said the district will utilize its legal firm for such questions moving forward.
As far as potential cost-savings in sharing HR duties, Roberts was cautious, saying, "I'd be lying if I said I knew it would be less costly, but where we can become better, maybe it'll be less costly, maybe not. Certainly, we might improve some effectiveness in what we do and have better coordination district-to-district. Maybe we can improve some areas of expertise in the broad area of HR."
Schochat's title was assistant superintendent for human resources, but Roberts said the new person will have the title of HR director.
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