Web Extra! Updated 5:02 p.m.

As far as working with a District 200 Board of Education that was initially deadlocked over keeping him around, Supt. Attila Weninger insists that he can work with the board after it shifted position and chose to re-open contract extension negotiations. Weninger said the two sides are committed to educating students at the high school.

An upbeat Weninger spoke to Wednesday Journal by phone Friday afternoon, shortly after the school announced that the board was reopening negotiations on his contract. The board is considering a one-year extension. Weninger said he’s is pleased with the latest developments.

“I am enthusiastic about the prospects for continuing the work that we began over the last two years, and I am looking forward to the discussion with the board,” said Weninger, adding that he’s confident the two sides can come to a mutual agreement.

After months of negotiations that began in the summer, the board was split with three members in favor of extending his contract. As a result, Weninger last month announced his intention to retire next June. Board members John Allen, Ralph Lee and Jacques Conway were solidly in support of Weninger.

Board member Sharon Patchak-Layman has made no secret of her desire to hire a new superintendent, saying so publicly. Board member, and until Thursday evening, board president, Dietra Millard was on the board that hired Weninger in spring 2007, and was the only member to vote against him at that time. Members Terry Finnegan and Amy McCormack, both elected this past April, had not expressed publicly where they stood on keeping Weninger. The board’s regular meeting was last night. Members went into closed session to discuss the contract around 10:30 and stayed until around 2 a.m. 

According to sources close to the school, last night’s closed meeting grew tense.  McCormack told Wednesday Journal late Friday that she had not changed her position and had long favored a one-year contract extension. But she acknowledged that her openness to re-open the contract discussion had changed the direction of the board’s action.

McCormack said this was not a good time to look for a new superintendent, given the current state of the economy and the agenda items the board has undertaken this year.

“I just feel very strongly about that, and this is actually where I’ve always been. There’s never been a change in my position,” she said of supporting a one-year extension.

McCormack added that she doesn’t believe her decision will ostracize her from the board or the community that opposed extending Weninger’s contract.

“I didn’t run to be most popular-I’m no Sarah Palin.”

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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