Huntley School District Supt. John Burkey and Special Education Director Cheryl Kalkirtz in happier times.
Yesterday I showed you the terse resignation letter of Huntley School District 158′s Special Education Director Cheryl Kalkirtz.
As you can see from this article, District 158 seems to have a difficult time keeping such employees.
But, back to the question:
Does the Huntley School District need a full-time “certified” Special Ed Director?
My research says it doesn’t.
It doesn’t even need the part-time one it recently hired.
The reason is because Huntley School District 158 is a member of SEDOM, the Special Education District of McHenry County, and its Superintendent, Kathy Wilhoit, has the necessary “endorsement.”
Superintendent Wilhoit wrote,
“Regarding requirements, if a district has a full time special education administrator, that person must have a state director of special education endorsement. If the position only works with special education part time, the endorsement is not required.“All districts who are members of a special education cooperative operate under the director of the cooperative as the state approved special education director.”
Indeed, Wilhoit told me she signs all the state grant applications.
So, it appears that Kalkirtz’ leadership abilities could have been utilized with no problem from Springfield by just changing her title.
That still leaves the question of why there was a parting of the ways.
The rationale used to appoint a part-time Special Ed Director was that she had the proper “endorsement.”
As you can see from Superintendent Wilhoit’s statement, that was not necessary.
Even though Karen Aylward’s appointment as Interim Director seemed to run into problems when it was discovered she did not have the endorsement, Wilhoit’s endorsement would cover for her with only a title change.
Any of the three parts of the May 2009 memo may be enlarged by clicking on it.
A May 2009 memo to Huntley District 158 from the State Board of Education should have made that clear. In part, it reads:
The above regulatory citation at 23 IAC 226.800(g)(3) also requires that “Each school district, or the cooperative entity of which it is a member, shall employ a full-time director of special education…” (emphasis added)
I did notice that all of Huntley’s “Assistant Director” of Special Ed job titles were changed to “Coordinator” after I pointed out the day of the meeting, citing state law, that all Directors and Assistant Directors have to have an endorsement for Director of Special Education.
This wasn’t the original plan, as evidenced by the planned personnel changes that were in the original board packet.
What did come out was Supt. John Burkey’s having to admit the lengthy amount of time that it takes for the State of Illinois to review and approve a Director’s endorsement.
This pretty much debunks any implication or cover that Cheryl Kalkirtz had to be let go or had to resign from the district because she didn’t officially have a director’s endorsement yet.
Maybe the real reason will come out later.
Kalkirtz’ on the job performance was well respected and Burkey publicly pretty much ruled out any inappropriate behavior on Kalkirtz’ part.
It is entirely possible and looking more and more likely every day that Kalkirtz did everything right, disclosed everything up front about not officially having a Director’s endorsement and was performing admirably in her job every day. For whatever reason, parents were told she had that endorsement.
So what’s left?
Is it possible Burkey got more than a little irritated that Kalkirtz was a professional who was good at advocating for her special services students.
If that’s not how a superintendent really wanted someone to perform in that position, it might be like having two tectonic plates awaiting a breaking rupture.
So far, there has been no tsunami bigger than the one that hit Hawaii. But you can bet similar swift underground waves are still bouncing around the District 158 basin.
It is so unusual for a middle level school administrator in Illinois to leave in the middle of a school year contract, that barring death, indictment or felony arrest. It’s safe to describe what is now publicized as a resignation was apparently the result of an an internal power struggle, which Burkey won.
Whether the students will end up on the winning side remains to be seen.
When I filed a Freedom of Information request for board emails, I saw no indication that Burkey had informed board members prior to the resignation.
Based on people talking about how Burkey begged Kalkirtz to stay in January and then, weeks later, he accepted her resignation, you may want to wager an abrupt turn occurred.
Coincidentally this apparently happened after Burkey got his new three-year contract.