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Felicia Starks-Turner, director of Human Resources and Development for District 97, will change jobs effective July 20. She has been hired as the district’s Grants/Alternative Education administrator, a newly created position.

Starks-Turner will coordinate grants and oversee the new alternative education program. The Dist. 97 Board of Education voted 6-1 to hire Starks-Turner at a special meeting on July 8. She had served as Human Resources director for the last two years. Prior to that, she was principal at Irving Elementary School.

The board voted on June 28 to create the new position. Starks-Turner applied for the job shortly thereafter, said Board President Carolyn Newberry-Schwartz.

District 97 Supt. Constance Collins recommended combining the two part-time jobs into one full-time position. Collins, along with board members, had expressed a desire to see the district improve on securing more state and federal grants. The district also created a new alternative education program for lower-risk students this fall. The new program will be housed at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, 325 S. Kenilworth. The current program for expelled students will move to West 40, an alternative school in Lyons.

Starks-Turner will serve as interim administrator for one-year while the new position is evaluated.

“It was Dr. Collins’ desire to reevaluate it after the end of the first year, and determine if the position needs to remain at the administrative level,” said Schwartz. The administration, she added, will be evaluating “the position as well as the person.”

Starks-Turner, a former principal at Irving Elementary School, said she wanted to return to the school building to work with kids.

“I wanted to do something different than what I was currently doing,” she said. “These are both positions I’ve done in the past.”

Starks-Turner’s salary will be roughly $80,000 a year, comparable to an assistant principal’s pay. A search is underway for a permanent Human Resources director.

Ben Cooper, a retired Human Resources director with Valley View School District 365 in Bolingbrook, will assist in the HR department on a part-time basis until a permanent replacement is found, said Collins. Cooper oversaw Human Resources last summer during Starks-Turner’s maternity leave.

Collins said Starks-Turner was qualified for the new position with a background as a teacher and administrator. The district, she added, has been without a grants coordinator for several months after the former coordinator resigned. Other administrators, she said, absorbed those responsibilities.

“We wanted to look for someone with skills in both areas, to work with our alternative education program and our grants, not just those we have currently but new opportunities,” Collins said. “With this particular position, we were looking for development of alternative education. As far as our grants, it became clear that we needed someone because of all of the paperwork needing to be submitted to the state, and monitoring those grants.”

Schwartz also touted Starks-Turner’s experience.

“She has previous experience working with Title I grants and is familiar with how those large grants work. And she’s a former principal and teacher, and brings that expertise that we’ll need in developing this new program,” said Schwartz.

Starks-Turner became HR director in the summer of 2004, after serving six years as Irving’s principal. Taking over as principal in January 1999, Starks-Turner was credited by teachers and parents with turning Irving around. A former assistant principal at Longfellow Elementary School, Starks implemented a number of reforms at Irving, including strengthening the curriculum and increasing parent involvement at the school. In her six years as principal, test scores improved along with school morale.

Her results as HR director, compared to the triumphs at Irving, have been mixed. An independent report of Dist. 97’s Human Resources and Finance departments, conducted last fall, found numerous deficiencies in both departments.

Starks-Turner, though, said she has worked the last two years to streamline many of the department’s processes. She said the department is currently working to create a manual outlining procedures.

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