Glen Ellyn teachers call for superintendent contract extension

 
 
Updated 10/2/2018 5:56 PM
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  • Paul Gordon

    Paul Gordon

  • Questions about Superintendent Paul Gordon's future in Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 have teachers rallying to his side.

    Questions about Superintendent Paul Gordon's future in Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 have teachers rallying to his side. Daily Herald file photo

Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 teachers are throwing their support behind Superintendent Paul Gordon amid uncertainty about his future with less than a year remaining on his contract.

Members of the teachers union plan to stage a rally before the Oct. 15 school board meeting and to present a letter urging board members to immediately renew Gordon's contract, the Illinois Education Association announced Tuesday.

The demonstration comes as some parents are becoming increasingly vocal about their concerns with a possible change in leadership. An online petition in support of Gordon started by Jessica Buttimer, a frequent school board critic, has garnered nearly 850 signatures. About two dozen parents, along with Glenbard West High School Principal Peter Monaghan, vouched for Gordon at a board meeting last month.

But board members have remained tight-lipped about Gordon's contract. It's unclear if negotiations are taking place behind closed doors or if the board will start a search for a replacement or interim superintendent.

Board President Stephanie Clark said Tuesday she would not comment until she saw the full news release from the Illinois Education Association.

Gordon's contract -- which pays him $229,392 annually -- ends after this school year in June 2019.

Tracy Guerrieri and Dina Sbarra, co-presidents of the Glen Ellyn Education Association, want the board to keep Gordon at the helm of the five-school district. But if they aren't going to extend his contract, board members should at least launch a superintendent search so they aren't scrambling to find a "good, qualified leader," Sbarra said.

Gordon "supports higher education, higher learning and the social emotional needs of these kids," said Sbarra, a 25-year teacher at Hadley Junior High. "So that's why we fully support him, and we want to do whatever we can for him."

More than 100 teachers, parents and district residents are expected to rally outside district offices in support of Gordon at 6:15 p.m. Oct. 15, according to the Illinois Education Association news release.

It also noted several initiatives in the district since Gordon's hiring in 2013, including a study into special education services, increased teacher planning time for staff collaboration and a building plan to eventually replace 32 portable classrooms with brick-and-mortar additions.

Earlier this year, construction began on a Hadley Junior High addition to replace the last portable units in the district, one of the key projects in a $24.2 million construction plan funded by taxpayer-backed bonds and approved by voters in a 2017 referendum.

"He's turning the tide for public education in Glen Ellyn," Guerrieri said in the news release. "Dr. Gordon is investing in our students and our community. He makes us feel like we are a part of something bigger. We don't want to lose him to another district. That's why we're planning the rally and asking the board to act immediately."

Gordon declined to respond Tuesday to questions about whether he is seeking employment elsewhere or whether he has had any discussions with the board about his contract. A district spokesman pointed to his brief response to his supporters at a board meeting Sept. 17.

"Thank you for your kind words. Thank you," Gordon said at the time. "It means more than you will ever know."

Gordon's original contract was extended for three years in 2015 after a four-hour executive session that ended at 3 a.m. Clark, Kurt Buchholz and then-board member Drew Ellis opposed the deal. Clark and Buchholz ran in 2015 as part of a slate that criticized Gordon's leadership and raised questions about the implementation of a number of curriculum and scheduling changes.

The board seats held by Clark, Buchholz and Erica Nelson are up for election in April 2019.

Gordon was hired after a national search and from a pool of nearly 300 candidates to succeed Ann Riebock, who retired. Gordon previously was chief academic officer in a school district in suburban Denver.

In 2017, Gordon was named one of three finalists for the top administrative post in a school district near Seattle, Washington. He also was a front-runner for a superintendent's position he didn't get in his home state of Colorado.

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