Why Kaneland's interim superintendent quit after 1 day

  • Tony Valente

    Tony Valente

  • Ken Sorrick

    Ken Sorrick

Updated 8/29/2014 11:52 PM

Ken Sorrick made it clear why he quit as Kaneland's interim school superintendent the day after he was named: He can't stomach outspoken school board member Tony Valente.

"Please forgive me but I could not sleep last night and for personal reasons I just can't take this job," Ken Sorrick wrote Tuesday to board President Cheryl Krauspe. "My skills are not designed for dealing with a certain personality on the board. It is not a good match. I would not be able to accomplish what your district needs."


The letter does not mention Valente by name, but the implications are clear:

"The way a certain Board member, disrespects you, disrespects the Superintendent, disrespects the Asst. Superintendent, disrespected your union representative and disrespected me would make it difficult or impossible for me to accomplish some of the basic tasks of being a superintendent," he writes in the letter obtained by a Daily Herald Freedom of Information Act request.

"He does not function in a businesslike manner and he turns concerns into personal attacks on others. He does not want to solve problems he wants to create problems."

Also, "When he made the comments about my contract, in a public meeting, in front of the press, he crossed the line. He did not make me feel welcome and I do not want to work anywhere my services are not valued."

Valente defended his actions Friday.

"I don't think I am completely rude or disrespectful," he said of his relationship with board members and staff.

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At the Monday-night school board meeting, Valente voted against Sorrick's contract, saying he did not like that the majority of work time would be in the fall, with Sorrick off in January and February. But Valente also said Sorrick was "very qualified."

Later in the meeting, Valente criticized the business superintendent's characterization of reserves in the proposed budget as "healthy," saying they were not healthy as long as the district was running a deficit in its education fund, and levying more taxes than it needs for its operations-and-maintenance fund to transfer that money to the education fund.

Valente also voted against hiring the daughter of Kaneland Education Association negotiator Lynn Henry as a paraprofessional, saying the practice smacked of patronage and said the board was practicing "Chicago Machine" politics. Henry was in the audience.

Krauspe, at one point, announced she wanted a civil discussion of a matter, and promised that she would recess the meeting as many times it would take to have that, even if meant running the meeting to midnight.


That didn't happen.

Valente said he wanted to see all the answers from last school year's parent survey. Superintendent Jeff Schuler said Valente could make an appointment to see them in person in Schuler's office,

Valente asked why he couldn't be emailed the answers, and Schuler said there were 1,500 of them and that he wanted to redact identity information. Valente then accused Schuler of "scrubbing" and "Kaneland-izing" the survey so that the board wouldn't see complaints. Valente has since filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the survey answers.

On Friday, Valente criticized Sorrick's letter: "One of the issues I have with the letter is the unprofessional nature of it," he said.

Sorrick wrote that Valente had left an executive session in mid-discussion, and Valente said it was not right of Sorrick to reveal information from an executive session. Valente said he left because the board was pursuing "unethical" hiring practices.

Sorrick also criticized Valente for discussing his concern with the interim contract in open session. Valente took exception to that, too.

"I have a very serious issue with that; to me it shows he has a problem with transparency," he said.

"The underlying issue is we (Kaneland) don't want to be transparent in anything we do."

Valente also said Krauspe tries to censor him and cuts him off in discussions. He has repeatedly accused her of mismanaging meetings by not following parliamentary procedure.

"There has been a concerted effort from the beginning to keep me censored and to keep me off this board," he said.

Krauspe disagreed Friday.

"Mr. Valente is a grown man who is fully responsible to himself for his emotional outbursts," she said. "It is unfortunate that he believes I am trying to provoke him.

"My role as board president is to conduct the important business of the Kaneland district. Mr. Valente makes choices about how to conduct himself, and apparently those choices have led to the candidate's decision to resign."

The board will meet Tuesday to discuss hiring another interim superintendent. "We will have a new, great candidate," Krauspe said.

Friday was Schuler's last day with Kaneland. He starts as Wheaton Warrenville District 200's superintendent next week.

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