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Community comes out to support H-F superintendent

Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233 will have Superintendent Von Mansfield at the helm for at least three more years after the school board voted 4-2 to extend his contract Tuesday.

Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233 will have Superintendent Von Mansfield at the helm for at least three more years after the school board voted 4-2 to extend his contract Tuesday.

  Von Mansfield

Board members John Farrell, Jody Scariano, Debbie Berman and Steve Anderson voted for a two-year contract extension. Board members Tim Wenckus and Annette Bannon voted no. Bannon explained her vote saying as a new board member she wanted a one-year extension so that she could assess Mansfield’s role.

Member Beth Larocca recused herself from the vote. 
Mansfield’s current contract runs through June 2018. His salary is $287,978. The two-year extension will end in June 2020. He will receive raises based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), not to exceed 3 percent. Current CPI is .08. 
The vote won a standing ovation and a loud round of applause from the more than 125 people in the audience, some of whom stood through the two-hour meeting, 90 minutes of which consisted of comments from the public.
After the vote Mansfield thanked those present for their support.
“I’m here because I want to be here, not because I have to be here,” he said. “I say this in the truest sense and all of you have pretty much encapsulated what I would very much want to say about the Homewood-Flossmoor community.  
“It is a stellar opportunity to be who everybody else wants to be.  And I say that in the sense that we come from so many varied backgrounds. We are a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-income community,” Mansfield stressed.
He seconded comments from parents who said negativity, especially through social media, is not helpful to the high school’s mission.
“In terms of what we do and how we do it: We do it in the most professional way possible,” Mansfield said. “That’s who we are. That’s who we’ll continue to be. I think in terms of saying we have to be role models for our kids – we are teaching our kids for the future. I am so committed to making sure they have the best of what we have to offer.”
Throughout the comment period, speakers stressed how Mansfield has helped them individually, both in his role as superintendent and as a community leader. He has raised the status of H-F by serving on national boards, some said. 
They also came to the microphone to talk about the successes of their children who graduated from H-F and the reputation the high school has outside the community. Several stressed that reported test scores aren’t telling the true story of H-F.
And others questioned the motives of newly elected board members.
H-F senior Lauren Parker opened the comment section asking Larocca how she could be unbiased in voting on Mansfield’s contract after making disparaging remarks about the superintendent to students at an ACT prep class. 
“I don’t think I said I dislike him, because I never met him prior to being here,” said Larocca, who was elected to the board in April.
During the comments section, several parents went back to the issue Parker raised. One woman asked for an investigation into Larocca’s comments and suggested she recuse herself from the vote, which Larocca eventually did.
When asked by a parent, both Bannon and Larocca said they were not aware of people at their April victory party saluting Ryan Pitcock, who was dismissed as H-F’s principal last June. That dismissal touched off months of disharmony in the H-F community.
One mother asked if the new board members were “in the pocket of various people in the community.” 
Several parents said they hope the current school board, made up of all white members, will be working for the betterment of the student body, which is 70 percent minority. 
“If there’s anything you’re going to need, it’s black parents,” one father said.
“It makes me really sad to see the school like this because we’re so diverse, we’re so interesting, we have so many good things about us,” said a 2016 graduate. “This is making us awful. This isn’t something I want our district to be known for. 
“This (H-F) name follows me wherever I go, and I want the name to be something that’s upright and good and moral and everybody can say ‘I’m really glad you came from H-F’ because I’m really glad I came from H-F and I want to continue being glad I came from H-F,” she said.
After the meeting, board president Steve Anderson said he knows he has “lots of work to do” with both the board and the community.

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