Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dist. 158 executive says hire was fair

Jeffrey Gaunt of the Daily Herald wrote the following excellent article.

We love the following line from the story below " The criticism has bothered him, Stewart said last week. But he stands by his character." To this we say "Mr. Stewart a board member of man of character would have never applied for the job."

Dist. 158 executive says hire was fair
New officer says he didn’t use influence to get his job
By Jeffrey Gaunt
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Sunday, July 30, 2006

Swept onto the school board last year in a tide of voter unrest, Glen Stewart was a face of change in Huntley District 158.

The district, and a divided community, had just emerged from a contentious campaign for a 55-cent tax rate increase.

The school board had just apologized to the public for misinformation during the tax campaign.

And the superintendent and top two financial administrators were being ousted.

Stewart was appointed vice president of the new school board, and everyone, from board members to administrators to community activists said it was time for change.

A little more than a year later, after serving as a voice for cost controls and public trust, Stewart, still a board member, in June was hired as the district’s new chief operations officer at an annual salary of $101,000.

The hiring decision was announced shortly after an audit said the district lacked proper financial controls. And shortly before the investigation of an employee for stealing an estimated $8,000 to $10,000 from the district’s coffers.

Once a face for positive change, Stewart over the past month became a rallying cry for critics who say it’s bad business as usual in District 158.

The criticism has bothered him, Stewart said last week. But he stands by his character.
“I’m not that kind of person,” he said in response to claims that he used his spot on the board to land the job. “I never did that with any intention of creating an opportunity for myself.”

Stewart said he has only one regret regarding his jump from the school board to the administration. He shouldn’t have voted in favor of administrator raises while he was a candidate for the job.

“I did not take into account how that would look,” Stewart said. “I apologize to the children and residents of the district for that oversight.”

The other board members could — or should — have handled things a little differently as well, board President Mike Skala said.

“The only thing I think we could probably have done better as a board, is let the community know Mr. Stewart had applied for the position,” Skala said. “It never really crossed our minds as something to do.

“I guess hindsight is always great,” Skala said.

But Stewart said he doesn’t apologize for accepting the new job, as long as he believes he can make a difference.

“What’s important to me is that the best person got the job,” he said. Whether that was him or another candidate.

“The greatest joy in your life is serving others,” Stewart said. “I’ve made more money, but I don’t know where I’ve had more fun.”

Stewart now oversees the transportation, operations and maintenance, food and health services departments.
With a background in plant management, quality and manufacturing, he said he’s well suited — and qualified — for the job.

New Superintendent John Burkey, who was in on the hiring process, agreed with Stewart’s assessment.

Stewart had passion for the job, Burkey said. Stewart had experience in a managerial role. And he was a strong candidate even before another applicant — a retired U.S. Navy officer who serves as chief operations officer for Cincinnati Public Schools — pulled out of the running, Burkey said.

“It’s different,” Stewart said of his move to the public sector. “There’s a lot more public scrutiny. I think you have to be aware of that without letting it take you off task.”

The task now, he said, is using his experience in the private sector to help the district cut costs.

Whether that means tweaking the heating and cooling systems to conserve energy, or looking for ways to save money on bus parts, Stewart has thrown himself into the job.

“This is what I bring from the private sector,” he said. “I want us to make good use of the money no matter where it comes from.”

But despite the experience he brings to the table, he acknowledges questions persist about how he got the job.

Stewart was picked by the administration — and approved by the board — out of a field of 14 candidates.

He had no previous experience in school administration, outside of what he learned while on the school board.

He had recently been laid off from his job as a general manager for a Crystal Lake tool and die company.

He helped tweak the job requirements, eliminating the need to have an administrative certificate, which paved the way for his application.

And he replaced former assistant Superintendent Mike Kortemeyer, who resigned suddenly just days after Stewart lost his job.

To view the rest of the article go to the Daily Herald website.

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