D-46 looking forward

PRAIRIE GROVE – After months of controversy, the District 46 school board president said she hoped that two administrators’ plans to leave their posts would help the community move forward.

“That’s the whole reason for doing this the way we are,” Laura Domoto said. “Our goal is to look forward and get our focus back on students, which is where the board efforts should be.”

Just after midnight Wednesday, the board unanimously voted to accept the retirement of Superintendent Mary Fasbender and the resignation of Joel Murphy, assistant superintendent of business and finance.

Both have been under scrutiny throughout the past few months, and each cited “a distracting controversy” in their decisions to leave at the end the school year, according to board news releases.

District residents have alleged that Fasbender and Murphy withheld insurance plan information from the teachers’ union so that they would not face taking less favorable plans themselves.

Domoto declined to specifically link the controversy cited for the departures to the insurance issues.

She added that neither was asked to leave. However, the board did reference the fact that the two had been in the hot seat in its news releases.

“The Board has accepted Mr. Murphy’s resignation because it wants to bring the current situation to a conclusion without expending additional time and financial resources,” the release about Murphy stated.

Fasbender’s news release referenced controversy as well, but also said family and personal circumstances contributed to her decision to retire sooner than she had planned.

Her most recent contract was supposed to go through June 2011, at which point she had announced she would retire. It was contentiously approved in April, just weeks before three of the school board members were slated to be replaced after the spring election.

District parent Theresa Bossemeyer said she was not surprised by the announcements.

“I’m hopeful that someone will step up and kind of bring the school and the community together,” she said.

Michael Breseman, Prairie Grove’s former village president, addressed the board Tuesday night before the departures were announced. He asked that the two administrators be investigated.

Breseman said Wednesday that he was pleasantly surprised to learn that the two were leaving.

“If they had gone to litigation, and it had been contentious, I think only attorneys win,” he said. “[But] it’s not a perfect world. In a just world, they’d both be leaving [now].”

He added that he hoped the district would consider combining the two positions to save money. Domoto said that was unlikely.

“Whether we’re a large district or a small district, there are so many state requirements that have to be taken care of that you can’t put those two jobs together,” she said.

Domoto said a time line for replacing the two administrators had not be set but that board members did plan to meet with an Illinois Association of School Boards official to discuss the best course of action.

“We haven’t had time to iron out all those pieces,” she said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also informally agreed to further explore the idea of merging with District 26, while simultaneously looking into the idea of a unit district with District 155 or merging with another local district.

Board member Charlotte Kremer said she didn’t believe that the staff transition would affect plans to look at merging.

“We’re just in the beginning stages looking into all involved and whether it’s feasible to us,” she said. “So I do not see that having an impact, at this point anyway.”

Fasbender was hired in May 2005 and earns $166,674 annually. Murphy was hired in May 2007 and earns $112,275 annually. Both figures include the district’s contribution to the Teachers’ Retirement System on their behalf.

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