Dist. 211 says Palatine principal retired amid investigation of inappropriate comments

Palatine High School's principal for the past 17 years, Gary Steiger, moved up his retirement from the end of the school year to the start of spring break amid an investigation into accusations he made inappropriate comments to staff members over the course of several years, school officials said Thursday.

Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates sent letters to Palatine High School staff members, parents and students late Thursday afternoon detailing the circumstances of Steiger's early retirement that became effective March 27.

"In mid-March, we received a complaint that then-Principal Gary Steiger had made an inappropriate comment to a staff member," Cates wrote. "That individual brought the matter to the attention of our human resources department. We immediately began an investigation, and we received reports of additional demeaning experiences and inappropriate comments from Principal Steiger that took place several years ago."

Cates emphasized that no reports of similar conduct had previously been made to the district.

While declining to detail comments reportedly made by Steiger, Cates said they were never directed at students and were not racist.

Steiger could not be immediately reached for comment.

Cates' memos outlined the sequence of events after the reports of Steiger's conduct were received.

"Upon learning of the reports, I requested that Mr. Steiger not return to his duties until we had completed the investigation," Cates wrote. "As a result of complaints from multiple faculty members gathered within the investigation, Mr. Steiger did not return to Palatine High School and he retired."

No disciplinary action is possible and the nature of Steiger's early retirement has no impact on his retirement benefits, Cates said.

Cates praised the courage of staff members who came forward.

"I want to reiterate that we do not tolerate this kind of behavior, and we are committed to investigating and responding to any reported incidents," Cates wrote. "We are committed to providing a safe and welcoming teaching and learning environment where every person is treated with respect and professionalism, without exception."

Palatine High School's Assistant Principal Tony Medina, appointed last October to succeed Steiger as principal on July 1, is now serving as principal.

"As you know, Tony Medina now serves as the leader and principal of Palatine High School," Cates wrote in his memo to the staff. "We have the highest confidence in him and I know he will value and benefit from your support."

Steiger was hired by District 211 in 1985 and became principal of Palatine High School in 2002. In March 2015, he was named one of four Principals of the Year by Horace Mann and the Illinois Principals Association.

At that time, his recognition was attributed to his implementation of staff training and development, as well as initiatives to improve the school environment and culture, as student demographics rapidly changed.

In receiving the award, Steiger said he was grateful for the support of the school community.

"Our community of teachers, parents, and individuals have great ideas and want what's best for our students," Steiger said in 2015. "They have found ways to make things happen and meet the needs of our students."

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