Grayslake Elementary District 46 Superintendent Ellen Correll garnered just enough board support Wednesday night to receive a 1-year contract extension.
District 46 board members voted 4-3 in favor of retaining Correll through the 2012-13 academic year. Her contract originally had been scheduled for a vote Aug. 10, but a board majority agreed to postpone action so some members could have more time to make a decision.
Board President Ray Millington and members Keith Surroz, Susan Facklam and Karen Weinert were in favor of extending Correll's deal. Board members Shannon Smigielski, Kip Evans and Michael Carbone were against.
Correll's supporters have pointed to improved student academic performance and her ability to navigate through millions of dollars in budget cuts since 2009.
"I think Ellen has done a great job in light of a lot of trying situations," Millington said.
Opponents have questioned her sending emails from her District 46 account that were perceived as backing certain school board candidates in last April's election. State law prohibits public resources from being used on political campaigns.
Before the vote, some speakers during public comment time praised and panned Correll.
District 46 parent David Schreiberg said Correll has been doing a good job based on student achievement and deserved a contract extension. He criticized board members who pushed for a delay in deciding her deal last month.
"I support the superintendent and 99 percent of the people I know feel the same way," he said.
But Lake County tea party founder Lennie Jarratt of Round Lake Beach argued against giving an extension to Correll. Among his complaints were Correll's emails.
"This board has been used so much politically, it's ridiculous," Jarratt said.
Correll's annual salary and benefits deal of roughly $223,000 runs through the 2011-12 academic season.
In June, board members agreed with an independent investigator's recommendation to issue a letter of reprimand to Correll that resulted from a complaint. It accused her of improperly using district equipment to send political emails supporting two board candidates.
Correll explained she responds quickly to emails and did not deliberately or intentionally want to help the campaigns of incumbents Susan Facklam and Mary Garcia in the April election. Facklam won re-election, while Garcia fell short.
Evans questioned the idea of backtracking from sent emails when he spoke about Correll at Wednesday's meeting.
"It's pretty hard to come back after you've written an email and say, 'I didn't mean what I wrote.' You know it's there," Evans said.
Hired in January 2005, Correll came to District 46 from Corning Painted Post School District in upstate New York, where she had been an assistant superintendent of instruction.