Local News

Letter presented to District 161 board calls for superintendent’s removal

A group of parents in Flossmoor School District 161 Monday asked the board of education to remove Superintendent Craig Doster by the beginning of November.

Flossmoor resident Reginald Williams Jr., a spokesman for the group, told the board that 400 District 161 residents signed a letter calling for the superintendent’s immediate dismissal.

Williams’ comments came at the beginning of Monday’s meeting during  a period when residents and other interested persons are allowed to address the board. An overflow, standing-room crowd at the district’s Normandy Villa administrative center heard his comments.

Board President Stephen Paredes told Williams he could not discuss individual employees during the public participation period.

According to the letter, District 161 immediately needs to address “a drastic decline of test scores,” improve an achievement gap among low income students and improve overall academic performance in the district.

Under Doster’s leadership, “student performance on standardized tests continue to fall and meaningful academic improvement across the district has been unattainable,” the letter states. “Currently multiple grade levels and schools within the district fail to meet national averages for growth. Likewise, unacceptable achievement gaps exist for various subgroups including low income students.”

Williams, the father of children at Heather Hill School and Parker Junior High, said test scores in the district have taken a “downward trend” since the superintendent took over five years ago.

For the parents who signed the letter, “mediocre” test scores are not acceptable, Williams said.

“We have zero confidence in the superintendent,” he said.

Williams asked parents who had signed the letter to stand. Several dozen people came to their feet and remained standing during Williams’ presentation.

Doster has been District 161’s superintendent since 2011 and has a contract through the end of the 2017-18 school year.

Under state law, all school districts are required to have a superintendent. As the district’s chief executive officer, the superintendent is responsible for the management and administration of the schools in accordance with the local board’s polices and directives, and state and federal laws.

Williams said District 161 can’t wait until 2018 and that the superintendent should be relieved of his duties right away. The district, he said, cannot allow test scores to continue to fall. Williams said the board needs to take action “no later than Nov. 1.”

The letter states that Doster “has failed to improve test scores, failed to serve low income students, failed to introduce a curriculum that adequately reduces the high achievement gap for subgroups and failed to serve high learners who positively impact test scores.”

Board members had no public response to Williams’ presentation.

David Dreyfuss, a former school board president, said state law prevents the school board from taking any action on the letter’s request until the next school board meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 14. He also cautioned the board and audience members that the removal of a sitting superintendent would likely be very expensive since District 161 would probably be faced with large legal fees.

Dreyfuss called the current school board “dysfunctional” and encouraged concerned parents to make a difference by running for the board in next April’s election. Four of seven seats will be at stake in the election.

Following the public participation portion of the meeting, the school board immediately went into a closed-door executive session for one hour and 15 minutes. After they returned to open session, board members moved quickly through a routine agenda. After concluding their business they went into a second executive session.

Audience members told the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle that the letter had been in the works for the past couple of weeks and that it had been promoted on social media sites. Persons supporting the letter signed a paper copy to be given to the school district.  

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