The Real Reasons Cheryl Kalkirtz Resigned as Huntley’s Special Education Director

Cheryl Kalkirtz at a town hall meeting on special education shortly after being hired.

The original opening sentence of yesterday’s Daily Herald’s article on former Special Education Director Cheryl Kalkirtz read,

“Recently released documents show a former special education director in Huntley Unit District 158 overstated her qualifications on her job application.”

For some reason, it changed to

“Documents obtained recently by the Daily Herald paint a contradictory picture of what transpired when a former special education director in Huntley Unit District 158 applied for her job last year.”

You might think this is the real reason behind Kalkirtz’ leaving Huntley School District 158.

Au contraire.

There is far more to it than an employment application, which Kalkirtz may not have personally filled out.

Apparently reporter Jameel Naqvi knows about Cheryl Kalkirtz’ resignation on January 11th, but you can’t tell it from the Daily Herald headline (which editors, not reporters usually write).  Here’s the original headline:

Ex-Huntley Dist. 158 special ed. chief pumped up job application

Here’s the revision:

Question Ex-Huntley Dist. 158 special ed. chief pump up job application?

What Supt. Burkey did comment on in the article relative to Kalkirtz’ resignation was,

“Burkey said the brief statement was the only letter Kalkirtz submitted.” (emphasis added)

If so, I wonder about this letter, which McHenry County Blog has obtained a while back:

It’s addressed to Superintendent John Burkey.

And to school board members.

Could it be that Burkey doesn’t read letters of resignation from top administrators?

Or doesn’t remember?

We know several board members received copies of Kalkirtz’ January letter of resignation, weeks after she had departed.  They were hand delivered to board member’s homes.

Apparently Burkey didn’t pass along Kalkirtz’ resignation letter, addressed also to board members, when Kalkirtz submitted it on January 11th.

If I were on a school board, I’d certainly want to see a letter like this.

Especially with all the controversy about Special Ed.

Below is Kalkirtz’ January 11th letter of resignation with print large enough print to read.

Burkey apparently begged Kalkirtz to stay with the district after she first met with Associate Superintendent Terry Awrey.

They two met with Supt. Burkey to discuss Kalkirtz’ resignation.

After imploring her to stay, Kalkirtz agreed.

A few weeks went by.

Days after Burkey got a new three-year employment contract approved by the board, Burkey apparently decided to have Kalkirtz leave abruptly, rather than her continue through the school year, as she proposed in her January 11th resignation letter.

It’s an interesting way to treat a professional who resigns and commits to finishing out the school year.

When you read the original letter, the Daily Herald’s headline comes across as quite a smear job on Kalkirtz.

Will the Daily Herald take Burkey to task for being less than truthful when he said there was only one resignation letter when there were two?

We’ll see.

The Daily Herald seems to be making a big issue about whether Kalkirtz was truthful.

Will they now hold Burkey to a lower standard?

Or ask why Burkey apparently didn’t check out Kalkirtz’ credentials before hiring her?

Superintendent John Burkey and Special Education Director Cheryl Kalkirtz in happier times.

Maybe Burkey did and thought that, if she were going to be receiving her endorsement soon, then that would be okay, as Burkey did with the Assistant Special Ed Directors who also were required by state law to have their endorsements when they took their jobs.

It looks as if Burkey recommended several people for jobs that required endorsements, got the board to approve them and, then, after Kalkirtz submitted her January resignation letter, singled her out.

After all, none of the people running Special Ed in any school district that belongs to SEDOM, the Special Education District of McHenry County, needs to have a Special Ed Director certification, because the SEDOM Director Kathy Wilhoit’s endorsement is sufficient.

If this isn’t what happened, Burkey can set the record straight the same time he admits there was a previous resignation letter.

When you read Kalkirtz’ original resignation letter below you can understand why Burkey might want to say the letter never existed.

You might also understand how it came about Kalkirtz departed Huntley.

There’s one thing administrators and board members should know about confidentiality clauses; they don’t apply to when the documents are already beyond someone’s control.

Lots of people with the district talked about Kalkirtz resigning when it happened on January 11th.  The grapevine gushed out news about it.

People outside of board members and administrators not only had a copy of Kalkirtz’ January 11th resignation letter, but other documents as well prior to any agreement being entered into between Kalkirtz and the district.

Below is the text of the January 11, 2010, resignation letter from Cheryl Kalkirtz:

January 11th, 2010

Consolidated School District 158
Board of Education Members
Dr. John Burkey, Superintendent
650 Academic Drive
Algonquin, IL 60102

I am providing you with this letter of resignation, upon the completion of my contract for the 2009-2010 school years, for your approval as I have selected to look for other employment at this time. I would like to cite some particular examples for my decision to not stay with the district, also offering artifacts, correspondence or concrete examples for my departure, as an experienced administrator who has persevered at a district with many changes or dis structure that was placed before her.

The bullet points as below, generally describe my reasons for not choosing to remain at District #158 next year:

  • The administrative design for the Office of Special Services from day one has required a different structure, as experienced cabinet members could have prevented so much change, and even one assistant director’s resignation during this school year, as that administrator has still not been replaced.
  • I started the school year, needing to rapport build with a new office staff, who I was encouraged not to trust, causing disharmony in our immediate office setting. Still, we grew as a family, office staff are extremely dedicated and loyal, and I have observed trustworthiness and professionalism.
  • I would mentor 3 new assistant directors to oversee the district’s special education populations, with a disproportionate structure for supervision responsibilities. The cabinet has heard my ongoing concerns regarding themes of our office and has not always included me with problem-solving strategies.
  • I have represented reports, to the best of my ability, with other cabinet members either changing reports on the fly or have been asked to change reports sporadically, without ensuring accuracy in the completion of reports that I would need to represent formally.
  • Communications to my superiors, verbally or via e-mail, have not always been acknowledged, as a new administrator to the district, regarding decision-making for my department.
  • I was unable to participate in staff development, or have a leadership role for Special Services staff to have Institute Day opportunities to meet throughout the year, as past practices periodically allowed for this. I was not even formally introduced to the district by my superiors at the district’s opening Institute Day, and neither was my new administrative team from the get go.
  • Fiscal data has not been collaborative.
  • Curriculum and assessments for special needs students have been authoritarian style versus collaborative, and I have found that the Curriculum Director has required my providing her with reports about curriculum and criteria for establishing curriculum for the near 1,400 students who we represent, versus recommending curriculum according to her expertise and background or being advised to adopt programs that may or may not be successful for our students, due to former animosity between herself and my predecessor.
  • Caseloads and workloads for staff have been an ongoing struggle, as workloads for Special Education Staff became a legal requirement last spring into this fall with the state board of education, with my coming onboard to a new district. This fact has been a thorn in the office of Special Services throughout the entire year and relationship building has been limited during an average work day, as my administrative team has been limited for addressing many of the workload concerns. Finally, this winter, the district is establishing committees to follow through with workloads, represented by the Human Resource Office, respectfully.
  • District wide initiatives, such as RTI that leads to special education eligibility, PBIS, action-planning, the District’s first Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education, managing data with different fiscal databases, and strengthening special education compliance without an IEP database, has been a difficult and unique process, with a redeveloped administrative Special Services Team and a strong need for more clerical support, when compared to the other offices in our district. Morale has been an ongoing concern, additionally. All of the points listed are important to me, as how I am publicly perceived as a public school administrator.

As I have touched upon several concerning areas, as listed, please know that my original enthusiasm and intended dedication has always remained sincere and proactive, amidst the many changes placed before my office and programs.

To turn so many known obstacles around in such a short period of time, also with directives from my superiors to change how we function as an office with so much frequency or lack of communication, administrative guidance has been unclear, limited toward me for opportunities to understand the direction of how leadership wants me to interchange with understanding future designs or new directions for the district via long term goals.

In conclusion, my predecessor, from what I have heard, experienced all of these concerns and articulated these similarities to her superiors during her tenure with the district.

Respectfully, I will miss the collaborations and relationships that I have developed through our district and our Special Education cooperative and I hope that the district learns from an experienced district level administrator who tried to positively persevere at a district that needs to reconsider their foundation for professional learning communities for all of their stakeholders.


The Real Reasons Cheryl Kalkirtz Resigned as Huntley’s Special Education Director — 3 Comments

  1. Finally! Someone with the courage to stand up to the 158 overlords.

    “I have represented reports, with other cabinet members either changing reports on the fly or have been asked to change reports sporadically, without ensuring accuracy in the completion of reports that I would need to represent formally.”

    Misappropriation of funds?

    “Fiscal data has not been collaborative.”

    The money it costs to have one 158 administrator stay in a hotel 5 nights a week, because she does not even live in the area could have paid for the clerical assistance requested by Kalkirtz

    “advised to adopt programs that may or may not be successful for our students, due to former animosity between herself and my predecessor.”

    Here lies the real reason Meg Schnoor also left the district. It had nothing to do with pay. It had to do with the treatment she received from her superiors.

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