New Grass Lake school board parts ways with longtime superintendent

Grass Lake School District 36 is seeking a new leader after the single-school district announced it is parting ways with longtime Superintendent Terry O'Brien.

In a statement to parents released May 19, officials announced an "amicable separation" between the school district and O'Brien effective June 30.

"It is important to the parties that this is not a result of fault or misconduct, but rather due to an amicable separation," the statement reads.

The move comes just weeks after voters unhappy with test scores, per-pupil spending and a $6 million school renovation swept four incumbents off the board of education.

O'Brien and board President John Frendreis would not say whether the outgoing superintendent would receive a severance package when he leaves. He was two years into a four-year contract with the district.

"It's a fair interpretation to say they were looking to go in a different direction," O'Brien said when reached by phone Tuesday.

Frendreis said the school board has started the process to replace O'Brien. They have contacted the Illinois Association of School Boards to assist with a superintendent search.

"We have reached out to the IASB about advice and to point us in a certain direction," Frendreis said. "We are not sure if we will search for an interim superintendent, or if we think we can reach some sort of permanent solution."

Frendreis was one of four new board members elected April 4. He and fellow challengers Andrew Williams, Susanne Tauke and Russell Page ousted incumbents Cynthia Collins, Deborah Fogel, Susan Kozenski and Ron Lobodzinski. Collins served as the school board president and Fogel the vice president.

O'Brien was hired as the district's superintendent in 2005, after previously serving as director of student services at Richmond-Burton Community High School in McHenry County.

The board's decision to part ways with him comes at a time when the district is negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with teachers and is working on a new school budget, Frendreis said.

"There's a lot going on, and it's a significant challenge given the turnover on the school board," he said. "But, all the members of the board are united in the direction we need to take."

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Grass Lake School District 36 board President John Frendreis
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