Resigning Dist. 203 board member says group needs 'new ideas'
Suzyn Price is stepping down after 13 years on the Naperville Unit District 203 school board, saying a clash of personalities over the past several months indicates a need for new blood.
Price, 48, the board's vice president, said she intends to submit a letter of resignation May 20 -- roughly nine months after concerns surfaced about the leadership of board President Terry Fielden and the full board's ability to function effectively.
Price said last September the problem was not with Fielden, but with "the inability to get together and talk as a group." During a meeting April 4, she said the board's capacity to work together has not been restored.
"The rancor that arose last August and continues to this day among some members of this board has demonstrated to me that new energy and new ideas are even more critically needed right now," she said.
Five of the seven board members -- Price, Fielden, Susan Crotty, Mike Jaensch and Jackie Romberg -- have been representing District 203 together since 2007, with some of their tenures extending even longer.
Price said those nearly 10 years have led some board members -- though she wouldn't say who -- to expect "friendliness or family-ness" from each other instead of what she says is required: "being professional and understanding your role and working together."
"I don't know that we are effective as a group anymore for the school district," Price said.
Last spring, after 12 years on the board, Price said she hoped others would step up because she didn't intend to run for re-election. Fielden and Jaensch filed to reclaim their seats, but no other candidates came forward. So Price got together her paperwork and won another term.
Now she's renewing her call for some fresh faces to step in and make the board better.
Board member Donna Wandke agreed someone else could help provide "new insight" but said she didn't want to see a fresh voice "at the loss of Suzyn Price."
"I value the processing that she brings to our discussions and her insight and her experience," said Wandke, who joined the board in 2013. "It's sad that she felt like she needed to withdraw."
Other board members were hesitant to echo Price's call for new voices but quick to praise her service.
"Suzyn has a very high moral character. She's very policy-driven," Fielden said. "She keeps her eye on what's important to the community."
Board members Kristin Fitzgerald and Jaensch said they appreciate Price's years of contributions.
"I would not suggest we need a change," Jaensch said. "I'm getting along fine with everybody."
Fielden said he thinks the board is functioning fine, but Fitzgerald and Crotty declined to comment. Romberg didn't return calls.
Wandke said "healthy" discussions are taking place during open meetings, proving concerns with Fielden's communication and leadership were addressed after the board convened two self-evaluation sessions last fall.
The evaluations covered roles and expectations of board leaders and members and the need for proactive communication. Fielden also pledged not to vote on matters concerning the district's architects to quell conflict of interest concerns raised about his work as director of K-12 education for an Elmhurst construction firm.
Those changes have not fixed all the "personality" clashes, though, Price and Wandke say.
"We've tried to work together to get past that," Wandke said. "For some of us, it's working, and for others, it's not."
If and when Price submits her letter of resignation, the board will have 45 days to fill her seat. District 203 spokeswoman Michelle Fregoso said once the vacancy is official, the district will announce the opening on its website, social media and a Talk 203 email alert to seek resumes from interested candidates.