HIGHLAND PARK – The first North Shore School District 112 meeting of 2017 began with a letter of resignation from Board President Michael Cohn and went from delaying BDR3 for a year to a unanimous vote to “not implement” BDR3. This means all 12 D-112 schools will remain open for now.
Board Vice President Samantha Stolberg said there will be five new board members and a new superintendent in May, so even if the current board members “vote to delay BDR3 until the 2018/19 school year, it doesn’t matter because the new board can do whatever they want. We’re better off just taking it off the table entirely.” She led the meeting in Cohn’s absence.
Earlier in the January 3 meeting, Stolberg asked Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy to explain the original intent of BDR3 from February 2016, and he said it was to close three or four school buildings to save $5 million. Bregy said the cabinet still wants to move ahead with BDR3 as “the work has been done.”
Bregy recommended closing Lincoln, Green Bay, Elm Place and Ravinia as a backup plan in the advent of a failed March 2016 Referendum. At the February 16 D-112 meeting, BDR3 was approved by a 4 to 3 vote, with those voting no saying they needed more time to make an informed decision. Eric Ephraim, Karla Livney and Stolberg all voted no.
Ephraim still feels the same way in 2017. “Without any leadership in place, we should delay BDR3,” he said.
Karla Livney suggested to “revoke not delay BDR3.”
Ephraim agreed that BDR3 should be taken out and said the board should have a “cohesive process with the Reconfiguration 2.0 Community Team.”
These decisions came less than a month after resignations from Bregy and board member Jacqueline Denham. Both Bregy and Cohn will be leaving two years early. Bregy’s contract was until 2019, the same year Cohn’s term on the board was to expire.
Jennifer Ferrari, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, Dr. John Petzke, Chief Technology Officer, and Dr. Monica Schroeder, assistant superintendent personnel services, will take over as interim co-superintendents until a new superintendent is hired, per Bregy’s recommendation. The board voted unanimously in favor of all three.
Bregy explained that because no action can be taken at D-112 Committee of the Whole meetings, a Special Meeting followed immediately afterward to enable the board to vote on the interim superintendents, as well as on BDR3.
Stolberg said there are seven potential candidates for interim superintendent that the board will interview on January 18 and 19 with the goal of having callbacks on January 24.
Bregy said there’s a 45-day window to fill Cohn’s position, which expires in 2019. Denham’s position expires this April.
Schroeder read Cohn’s resignation letter at the January 3, Committee of the Whole meeting, as Cohn was attending a condolence call. He thanked Dr. Bregy for his leadership during these “extremely difficult years,” and expressed disdain for the way some residents treated the superintendent and the board members. “We pride ourselves on being a ‘Character Counts’ community, but in this case people thought others would just avert and close their eyes to this disrespectful behavior,” he said. “Our children did not close their eyes and they’ve now learned that being a bully is appropriate as demonstrated by their parents.”
Cohn also spoke about the benefits of BDR3 and said “these issues are not going away.”
“The unfortunate reality is that no future referendum will pass when others in the community are asked to give something up at the expense of one part of town,” he said. “Take the Ravinia renovation costs plus the Braeside renovation costs and you nearly have enough to build a new school for the whole southeast part of town.”
Board member Jane Solmor-Mordini said, “It’s unfortunate that we lost another warrior. Michael Cohn gave six years of his life volunteering 24/7. We’ve all behaved poorly.”
Breezy said, “Michael easily put in more than 40 hours a week at no pay. He could’ve easily been given an office here.” Bregy added that he was disappointed he couldn’t spend his last D-112 meeting with Cohn.
The interim co-superintendents will take Bregy’s place at the January 17 Board of Education meeting, as he will be readying for his new position as superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District in California, which will begin February 1. In his letter, Cohn added how “lucky” Bregy’s new students will be.