The dust may be settling in Flossmoor School District 161. After eight months of rotating chairs and occasional turmoil, the district is welcoming two new administrators, three new members to the school board and a new team of board officers.
The dust may be settling in Flossmoor School District 161.
After eight months of rotating chairs and occasional turmoil, the district is welcoming two new administrators, three new members to the school board and a new team of board officers.
At a special board meeting Monday, May 1, new board members Misha Lynn Blackman, Carolyn Griggs and Cameron Nelson and reelected member Stephen Paredes were sworn-in by Dana Smith who will officially begin his tenure as superintendent on July 1. He will be joined by new Parker Junior High Principal Fred Hunter who also starts July 1.
The board unanimously elected incumbent Michelle Hoereth its president, Stephen Paredes as vice president and Merle Huckabee as secretary.
A district resident since 2003, Hoereth said, “I am actually excited about serving the district in this capacity. There are some amazing things going on in the district so I am honored to be able to add value.
“We still have a ways to go,” she added, “but we have come a long way.”
Curriculum is Hoereth’s top priority. She wants to make certain “we have support for the new curriculum. We are introducing the new math curriculum and we will also be working on ELA (English, Language Arts). We want to make sure this has our support,” Hoereth explained. “We want to be sure our teachers have the support and our students have the support because we want to see growth across the board in our district from K through eighth grade.”
The board honored outgoing members Timijanel Boyd Odom, Lisa Harrell and Christine Marks.
Board member John Simmons read a lengthy tribute to Marks, who retired after serving for 12 years, saying, “she understands how critical and important to the community this district is. This can be a draining, dreary and even dreadful job, especially when done properly and promptly.”
Simmons added, “On behalf of the entire community I offer a sense of gratitude.”
Marks said, “I have been honored and humbled to serve this community where we have lived our lives and raised our children. It’s been an absolute honor and joy to serve on this board.”
Huckabee praised Odom for her willingness to share her insights.
“She welcomed me into her home, and I heard her explain what sitting on this board would be like. It has been an awesome pleasure to work with her,” Huckabee said. “She is a superstar for the children and for all the work she does in the community.”
Rather than make remarks, Odom, an attorney, gave the floor to two graduating seniors at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
Tamra Love recounted many ways Odom has inspired her.
“Ms. Odom has opened so many doors in court rooms,” Love said. “She is a great mentor and has been a great family friend as well.”
Joseph Henry said of Odom, “She has done a lot for me. I served an internship with her over the summer. After this experience I know now what I want to do in the law.”
Harrell participated in her final board meeting via a conference call.
“She never came to a meeting unprepared, she is a model for the incoming three members,” Paredes said. “The thing about Mrs. Harrell is her tremendous integrity. She is a person who always spoke the truth and did what was right for our community, children and fellow board members.”
Paredes stated, “She always wanted to hear what everyone (on the board) had to say no matter how vehemently she may have disagreed with them.”
Harrell responded: “This has been the most challenging thing I’ve done. I hope the new members listen with an empathetic ear. This is not about being interested in just one issue. Disagree without being disagreeable. Keep the children in mind. Listen, learn and be prepared.”
Over the past eight months, the district has had two superintendents. Former Superintendent Craig Doster, who had served for six years, was placed on administrative leave in October, got a separation agreement in November and his contract ended Dec. 31, 2016.
Michael Popp came in December as interim superintendent, and the board began a search for a permanent replacement. That process resulted in the March hiring of Smith as the new superintendent.
Parker Junior High School had two principals school year. Vickie Person has served as interim principal since September. She replaced David Kennedy, who resigned in August after being placed on administrative leave. Fred Hunter was hired as principal in April.
“That’s a lot of change, but all of it is good, actually,” Hoereth stated. “I think we will have people approaching the district with a fresh perspective. We’ve got an exciting new superintendent with a lot of energy and an amazing background and values. We have a new principal for Parker. These are changes that were inevitable so we’re looking forward to working collaboratively as a team and as a community to move us all forward.”