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Aracelis Janelle Scharon joins D161 board, Carolyn Griggs elected president

The Flossmoor School District 161 Board of Education got a minor shake-up this week, reorganizing in the wake of the April 6 election.

First, the District 161 community bid farewell to board member Stephen Paredes, who did not seek reelection. Paredes, who has been on the board since 2013, shared some words with those in attendance at the special meeting, rescheduled for Tuesday, April 27, to coincide with Cook County’s last day to certify the election results.

“I hope I have shown gratitude for my position here over the past few years by doing a good job as a board member,” Paredes said.

Newly elected Aracelis Janelle Scharon joined reelected board members Cameron Nelson, Carolyn Griggs and Misha Blackman in taking the oath of office. Then, the board shuffled its officers.


Griggs, who previously served as the board’s vice president, was elected president, with a unanimous decision by the board sealing the deal. The other officers did not assume their new roles so easily.

Nelson was nominated and approved as vice president by a 5-2 vote. Board member David Linnear, who had nominated himself for vice president, cast one of the dissenting votes. Scharon cast the other.

Christina Vlietstra was narrowly approved as board secretary, after both she and Blackman were nominated. Vlietstra won out by a 4-3 vote, with support from Linnear, Nelson and Scharon in addition to her own vote. Griggs and former Board President Michelle Hoereth supported Blackman’s nomination, but it ultimately failed.


Changing times and stipends 

Following the board reorganization, all remaining items on the agenda other than the meeting schedule were discussion only. Among them, Associate Superintendent Frances LaBella pitched the idea of shifting elementary school times by 10 minutes in the 2021-2022 school year. The start time would move from 8:30 a.m. to 8:40 a.m., and the end time would be pushed from 3:05 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

LaBella said the proposed change was the result of reflecting on this past year. Adjusting times during the pandemic worked better than the normal times for district transportation, she said.

The shift would give buses more time between the Parker Junior High School and elementary school routes, LaBella explained in a report to the board. She noted that without the shift, buses not getting to Western Avenue Elementary School on time after completing their afternoon Parker routes was “particularly problematic.”

Eric Melnyczenko also suggested a $1,000 increase to the Summer Academy principal’s stipend, which would raise it to $6,000. He also suggested a $1,500 hike to the Summer Academy assistant principal’s stipend, which would make it $4,000.

Melnyczenko said when the original stipends were approved, the expectation was that Summer Academy would be a half-day program. Now, it is going to be full-day, which he said necessitates an increase for the additional time those individuals will work.


Other business

  • The school board voted unanimously to approve a position of lead psychologist with a proposed salary range between $80,000 and $90,000. The position is expected to be funded primarily by grants related to the Individuals with Disabilities Act and Preschool For All, as discussed by the board at the meeting prior.
  • District 161 could spend an estimated $93,024 on six non-bid projects over the summer break, according to a report from LaBella and Scott Stachacz, director of buildings and grounds. That would be down from roughly $152,000 last summer, according to their report. Work includes asphalt repair, replacement of security alarm control panels, upgrading outdoor lighting, upgrading clocks, upgrading an HVAC control system and the installation of an automated vehicular slide gate operator system.
  • Stachacz and LaBella also filed a report asking to hire high school and college-aged students to assist with summer work, expected to cost the district roughly $46,200. That money would be to hire 10 students at an hourly rate to help prepare for Summer Academy and clean buildings for the August return to school. Two would also help out with the technology department. The proposed number of hourly workers is down five people from last year because there are fewer custodial tasks to be completed this summer after low usage of the building this past school year, according to the report. 

Correction: Aracelis Janelle Scharon’s first name originally was misspelled in this story. The Chronicle apologizes for the error.

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