After calls for dismissal, District 128 and superintendent negotiating separation agreement

Libertyville-Vernon Hills High School District 128 and beleaguered superintendent Denise Herrmann are negotiating a separation agreement years before her current contract ends.

School board President Lisa Hessel disclosed the news after a three-hour closed session that took up the bulk of a special meeting Monday night called to discuss an unspecified employment matter.

  The Libertyville-Vernon Hills High School District 128 school board is negotiating a separation agreement with Superintendent Denise Herrmann. Joe Lewnard/

Hessel said the meeting was convened to discuss the terms of a potential separation agreement with Herrmann, who is on paid administrative leave as negotiations proceed, and to determine next steps to identify interim district leadership for the 2024-25 school year.

“This is not a punitive action, but rather, one that allows the district to begin to move forward in a manner that prioritizes the best interests of our students, families, staff and community,” she said.

The board hopes to have a “fair, fiscally responsible agreement” ready for board action July 22, she added.

Libertyville, Vernon Hills teachers call for superintendent’s dismissal

Herrmann was hired as superintendent in 2021 to replace Prentiss Lea, who retired after 12 years in that position. Her contract was extended in March 2023 and runs through June 30, 2028. Her base salary is $269,025.

Hessel emphasized the decision to begin negotiating a separation agreement with Herrmann is mutual and “reached together after much deliberation and with much disappointment and regret.”

Herrmann has been under fire in recent months.

In May, the 293-member teachers union went public with a vote of no confidence saying, in part, Herrmann has shown a lack of leadership and created an “environment of distrust and disrespect.”

Parents and others packed school board meetings in support of teachers and over hours of public comment called for Herrmann’s dismissal. An alleged lack of planning in pursuit of pending educational initiatives without a realistic plan and other perceived shortcomings have been among the criticisms.

“Our union regrets that the situation has come to this, but it is clear the superintendent wasn't the right fit for the district and that educators, parents, taxpayers and even students agreed,” union President Monica Caldicott said Tuesday.

“We appreciate that the school board considered our input and made the correct decision to make a much-needed change in District 128 leadership,” she added.

Herrmann at one meeting in late May said she would “stand strong and resilient” despite the call for her to be removed. She said she has followed district policy, Illinois law and Illinois school code when making decisions, noting that sometimes leaders have to make decisions that aren’t popular.

Associate Superintendent Briant Kelly will provide day-to-day coordination for operations and will look to school leadership teams to guide planning for a smooth start to the 2024-25 school year on Aug. 12 with teachers returning Aug. 8, according to the district.

As planned, an interim superintendent would be selected for 2024-25 with the intent to conduct a national search for the next superintendent for 2025-26, according to the district.

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