By Dermot Connolly
With in-person classes and meetings impossible due to pandemic social distancing restrictions, the District 230 School Board is finding ways to celebrate graduating seniors and retiring staff while planning for reopening schools in the fall.
At the monthly board meeting held via Zoom last Thursday, the board hired five administrators to fill openings at Sandburg High School, Andrew High School and the district office effective July 1.
Charles Ovando is the new director of special programs for District 230, replacing Edgar Palacios, who stepped down to take a position in another school district.
Ovando is not new to District 230, having chaired the Social Studies, World Languages and Art department since 2014. He had previously held a similar position at York High School in Elmhurst. Ovando has also worked in Stagg and Sandburg high schools in 230. In his new position, he will oversee the district’s English Learning program, professional development, and the district’s consolidated grants.
At Sandburg in Orland Park, Jim Fazekas will replace the retiring Pat Feeney as dean of students. He has spent the past 15 years teaching in the school’s science department. He has a bachelor of science degree, master of arts in secondary education, and certificate of advanced study in general administration—all from Lewis University. While at Sandburg, Fazekas has also served on the Staff School Improvement Team and several curriculum development committees.
Steve Schanz was hired as Sandburg’s next athletic director. He replaces Tom Freyer, who will chair the school’s mathematics and business division next year. Schanz has a bachelor of arts in teaching from the University of Illinois, a master’s in School administration and leadership from Lewis University and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Concordia University. Schanz is also a certified master athletic administrator and certified athletic administrator. For the past seven years, he was athletic director at Maine East High School, and a special education teacher and head girls’ basketball coach at Oak Forest High School for nine years. He also was the assistant athletic director there, working with Hall of Fame athletic director Sue Bonner.
At Andrew in Tinley Park, Michele Vieu will be the director of guidance, replacing Drew Eder who is moving to another district. She is coming from Lyons Township High School, after starting her career at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago.
Kelli Lattya, who got her start as a student-teacher at Andrew, will chair the school’s Mathematics and Business division. She takes over from Tim Dalton, who will be an assistant principal of the high school. She most recently was mathematic department chair for Bremen Community High School District 228 after teaching in the same district. She is a doctoral candidate at the University of St. Francis.
The board also approved a sale of up to $24 million in working cash bonds, to address project and maintenance needs over the next three to five years.
“This is going to be a competitive sale with online bidding. We are going forward with this knowing that we are doing the best time to do this,” said John Lavelle, assistant superintendent for business services. He expects many interested buyers because due to the economy, people are looking for this type of safe investment.
Because of the changes caused by the pandemic, the board also approved a slight budget adjustment. Lavelle noted that the budget remains balanced, but is being raised from $138.7 million to $140.6 million. Expected expenditures are being lowered from $138.5 million to $136.7 million.
“I am very happy the budget performed as well as it did despite all the craziness going on and all the volatility. Our amended budget does represent a balanced budget but it does reflect some savings and also reduced revenues,” said Lavelle. The full document is available on the district website at www.d230.org.
Supt.t Dr. James Gay said the eLearning format in use now has worked well, in part because the district had put a plan in place, expecting to use it on snow days.
“In December, we were one of only 13 districts in Illinois with an approved eLearning program,” he noted. “All this prepared us for what would be our new normal.”
He credited students as well as teachers and administrators who “work tirelessly” to make it happen.
“This pandemic has put incredible stress on our students and staff,” he said, adding that more than 50 internet hotspots were given to students without internet access.
Responding to a question submitted by a parent asking why stores can be open but graduation ceremonies can’t be held, Gay said the district is just following the state mandates.
“This is not the end that any of us wanted. Plans are underway for unique ways that we can celebrate our seniors,” said Gay. “Our hearts go out to the seniors. We miss them and love them. We will do what we can to make it the best that we can.”
Board member Patrick O’Sullivan, whose child is graduating from Sandburg this year, said he felt for the students missing spring athletics, talent shows, college days and proms.
But he said signs are being placed on seniors’ lawns, and they are finding their own ways to have virtual celebrations via Twitter and Zoom. The student council presidents who speak at every meeting also said they are continuing traditions and staying in touch remotely
“I have been blown away. I know you are doing everything you can. D230 Proud is not just a slogan in this district. It is a way of life,” said O’Sullivan.
“This was a unique year in a lot of ways. We know this has been a horrible time to be a senior. But you guys have made us proud. We do have to follow the guidelines of this state. Our hands are tied on this issue,” said board President Tony Serratore.