Sam LeDeaux

Horace Mann Elementary School parents have launched an aggressive letter writing and social media campaign to save their principal’s job. 

But a District 97 official said the group’s actions are premature since no decision has been made regarding Principal Sam LeDeaux’s tenure at the school, 921 N. Kenilworth Ave.

“There is a lot of misinformation, rumor and speculation regarding his specific situation, but the board has not taken any formal action nor have they received a recommendation not just about his contract but any administrator contracts for the 2014-15 school year,” said Chris Jasculca, D97’s director of policy, planning and communications.

The Mann Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) has inundated District 97 headquarters with letters of support for LeDeaux to ensure his contract is renewed for next school year. According to the PTO’s website, 65 support letters from teachers and parents have been sent to Superintendent Al Roberts. Also a Facebook fan page has started supporting LeDeaux and after only a few days has nearly 300 likes.

LeDeaux’s contract expires at the end of this school year. He was appointed in May 2012 to replace Mann’s then outgoing Principal Nimisha Kumar.

 “We’ve started a letter of support campaign, sending letters to the district board to let them know we support him and want him to continue as our principal,” said Maggie Kelly, Mann PTO co-president.

Kelly said there is a possibility that LeDeaux’s contract may not be renewed, but that decision, she added rests with Roberts.

In a statement to Wednesday Journal, Roberts said he appreciated the feedback, but reiterated no decision has been made regarding personnel for next year.

“We anticipate we will complete this annual process in April, and will keep the community updated on the status of these efforts to the extent that we can in accordance with the law,” Roberts said.

All principal contracts are up for renewal this year with the exception of the two middle schools, said Jasculca. As part of the process, administrators are evaluated on several factors including student test scores and a self-evaluation filled out by principals. Recommendations from the superintendent, Jasculca said, are then voted on by the board.

“The board has the ultimate authority by their vote regarding the contract status for any of our administrators for the following school year,” he said. “For people to speculate that it is a done deal is just not accurate.”

Kelly however expressed concerns about the evaluation process, which she said lacked transparency, parental and teacher input. She said sending the letters ensured parents’ voices are heard and part of the process.

“We feel that part of the process is flawed. We wanted to make sure that our voices are heard,” she said.

Kelly added the PTO got few answers after seeking a meeting with Roberts on March 6. Kelly said Roberts told the group that law prohibited him from discussing personnel decisions. She did note, however, that the principal evaluations are done by designees and not by Roberts.

“He did answer some of our questions and it did raise some other questions,” Kelly said. The push to support LeDeaux stems in part from Kumar’s resignation. Kumar resigned her post at Mann in June 2012 after a D97 investigation found that the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) was inappropriately administered by staff. 

Kathleen O’Connor, a Mann parent, said many parents and teachers support LeDeaux.

“The staff at Mann was demoralized after what happened two years ago,” O’Connor said.

The school had an “atmosphere of fear and negativity,” but LeDeaux worked hard to bring people together “into a positive team.”

“He had everybody on the same page,” she said. He even inspired the staff to work over summer break when teachers don’t get paid.

“If the kids are learning and the scores show that … then it’s hard to understand what would … merit somebody losing their job,” O’Connor said.

Horace Mann PTO Board Letter

This story has been update to indicate that all District 97 school principals contract are up for renewal this year. This story previously stated that all schools except two middle school principals contracts were up for renew.

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