Teachers union head joins Palatine District 15 administration

 
 
Updated 6/22/2015 5:32 AM

Lisa Nuss, the longtime president of the teachers union in Palatine Township Elementary District 15, will be joining the administration she's previously clashed with in bargaining talks.

Nuss will become the head of the district's human resources department. Her hiring comes months before the district is expected to begin negotiations with the teachers union on a new contract.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Her hiring wasn't disclosed publicly in a personnel report posted online before a school board meeting last week. Board member Manjula Sriram, often the lone dissenter on votes, noted the omission and asked Superintendent Scott Thompson if other people had applied for the job and for their qualifications.

However, Thompson said, "There was no application process."

Two attorneys previously were interviewed, but they both ended up taking other positions, he added.

"And then at that point I asked Lisa Nuss to consider taking the position," he said.

Nuss will replace Darlene von Behren, who is retiring as assistant superintendent for personnel and human services. According to von Behren's online job description, she has been involved in negotiating collective bargaining agreements, hiring employees and staff evaluations, among other duties.

She will resign as head of the teachers union and begin work in the administrative post July 1. Nuss isn't getting the assistant superintendent title, instead being named the executive director of human resources.

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In response to a question from Sriram on whether Nuss has the necessary credentials, Thompson said that the job requires an administrative license within 12 months.

It wasn't clear from what was said at the meeting whether Nuss previously has worked in human resources. Nuss could not be reached for comment.

In an email Sunday, Thompson said whether serving as union president or as a district administrator, Nuss is part of the same "team."

"She is just switching roles on the team," Thompson wrote.

"She brings a wealth of experience to our (human resources) department that will serve the organization well. Everyone I have talked with sees her appointment as a positive move and see her as someone that will be supportive as we continue to strive to have the best school system around."

Nuss has spent part of her career in the district at Kimball Hill Elementary School, where she has headed the learning resource center. However, she's better known as the president of the Classroom Teachers' Council, which in 2013 filed a labor grievance against the district. The complaint was made after the school board sided with parents to roll out early dismissals on Fridays instead of the late arrivals teachers had wanted to make time for professional training.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In the grievance, the Classroom Teachers' Council said the district violated terms of the contract that called for a late start unless there is "overwhelming opposition from parents." The district denied the grievance, sending the dispute to arbitration.

The arbiter ruled in favor of the early release, and the scheduling changes took effect in February 2014.

During the board meeting, Thompson didn't explain why her hiring wasn't included in the public personnel report (board members get their own, more detailed copies).

The rest of the board did not comment before approving the personnel report 6-1, with Sriram opposing it.

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