Breaking News Bar
posted: 3/25/2012 5:00 AM

Mum's the word on Sean Payton, superintendents

Success - Article sent! close
  • Video: 'Boys of Fall' video


Hate the sin, love the sinner.

That's the phrase that jumped out at me as I edited Justin Kmitch's story on local reaction to the news that one of Naperville's favorite sons had been suspended by the NFL without pay for next season.

And, frankly, it was such an obvious answer, I wondered why we had to search high and low to get it.

Kmitch had been trying to do such a story since news broke earlier this month of the pro football bounty program that ensnared the New Orleans Saints and its head coach, Sean Payton, Naperville Central Class of 1982.

Kmitch had been calling the NCHS coach, athletic director, administrators, but the calls weren't even getting returned with a, "No, thanks." When we heard Payton had been given a swift and harsh sentence, the story took on a new sense of urgency.

On Thursday, Kmitch got something short of an in-depth interview with Athletic Director Marty Bee, who principally told Kmitch that no one in Naperville could judge Payton until all the facts are in and that no one in the administration would be commenting.

Meanwhile, Kmitch contacted some of the players from the Redhawks team that were graced with a visit and a locker-room pep talk from Payton, a speech that was captured by the ESPN cameras for its "Boys of Fall" documentary two years ago.

Taylor Bell, a star kick returner from that team and a New Orleans native, handled the question with grace and from-the-heart sincerity.

"I love my Saints, but what they did was completely illegal and a punishment certainly had to be handed down. Stopping this bounty thing is serious," he said. "But this won't sway my opinion about what a great guy he is. I love him to death. He brought a championship to my home city."

Hate the sin, love the sinner. And the Saints.

Kmitch wanted to ask the adults at Naperville Central whether what had happened to a local sports hero was perhaps a "teachable moment" for students, but no one was biting.

Maybe asking people if their hero's star has faded is a lose-lose, when-did-you-stop-beating-your-spouse type of question, so perhaps we shouldn't whine too much about all the unreturned phone calls and emails.

It might be more constructive, though, to whine about a bigger school issue: the secrecy over the comings and goings of the superintendents who lead our school districts, arguably the unit of local government with the greatest impact on our lives, and certainly our tax bill.

The search for a new superintendent in Glenbard High School District 87 was done behind closed doors. The announcement of the school board decision was made early last week, after the deal was closed.

That same day Naperville Unit District 203 Superintendent Mark Mitrovich announced he was leaving in an abrupt statement at the end of the school board meeting. He took no questions and left the room immediately. So far, no one's talking specifics about his departure. It seems clear that a controversial redrawing of boundary lines sparked some uneasiness. Yet, the school board just six months ago gave Mitrovich a 12 percent raise.

Meanwhile, departing District 87 Superintendent Mike Meissen, who hasn't shared his reason for leaving (ditto board members), has been busy looking for another job. He's been in the running for at least three other superintendent posts. We've reported on this because those school administrations have made the process more accessible to the public. Take Eden Prairie, Minn., where Meissen was a finalist for the top schools job. Says so on the district's website. It also details that he was scheduled for a daylong round of interviews with board and community members, and a tour of the district.

Would such a procedure be so harmful here?

I say this to cast no aspersions on the new Glenbard superintendent, David Larson, now heading a school system in suburban Detroit. In an interview with Christopher Placek, Larson was candid about his diverse upbringing, his roots in the area.

I'm just suggesting it might have been a nice story for the community to hear -- before Larson was hired.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.