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Still no contract for superintendent

Board doesn't vote during four-hour meeting; must notify Halloran by March 1 if no pact coming

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013 8:08 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 9:25 a.m. CDT

After an almost four-hour meeting, the Morris Community High School board still did not vote on Superintendent Dr. Pat Halloran's contract.

So many people attended the meeting Monday night that it was moved to the high school's auditorium. More than 50 people were in attendance, most members of the teaching staff showing their support for their leader.

Board President Dennis Best said after the meeting the showing and the comments made were appreciated and were taken under consideration. But the board did not vote on the contract following the more-than-two-hour executive session.

Best would not comment on what about Halloran or his contract is causing the hold up.

According to Halloran's contract found online at morrishs.org., the Board of Education has until March 1 to notify Halloran if it does not want to renew his contract. Without notification, Halloran's contract is automatically renewed for one year.

Best said if the board was to decide to give Halloran a letter stating his contract would not be renewed, this action would have to be voted on by the board.

Whether a special meeting would be called before March 1 to address the contract is still undetermined, Best said.

Despite the large attendance, only three people spoke during the public comments session of the meeting. All encouraged the board to vote on a new contract for Halloran to continue as superintendent, and all comments were followed by applause.

"I'm wondering how many other schools in the area can say all their teachers are in favor of (their superintendent)," said Karen Sapsford, a parent.

Sapsford was referring to the Morris Community High School Education Association — the teachers' union — taking a "vote of confidence" in Halloran. At the union meeting last month, 100 percent of the present members said they had confidence in Halloran. Of the union's 59 members, 56 were present.

She said as a parent, she wanted the teachers of her children to work in an environment where they are heard and their ideas implemented. If the teachers are happy, she said, it is a better learning environment for her children.

Vice president of the union, Craig Ortiz, read a statement to the board.

"Each of you on this board knows very well that Dr. Halloran is very approachable, accommodating and competent in his work. if you had a reason to get rid of him, we would all know it by now. The comparatively insignificant issues that some of you are bringing up are not about Dr. Halloran at all, but instead distract everyone from what you ought to be focusing on," he said.

"It's time to get your priorities in order and to renew Dr. Halloran's contract tonight. If you are truly on this board for the right reasons, you have no other choice," Ortiz continued.

In the statement, the union said Halloran has always respected the teachers, even when they didn't agree, and that communication is always open between him and the teachers.

They said they wanted to know if the board is divided on whether to retain Halloran, and if so, why.

"This is because we have been given no reason at all as to why his contract would not be renewed. There has been no indication that he is doing a poor job. If he has been, then this board owes it to all of us to clarify what the problem is," read Ortiz.

By taking too long with Halloran's contract, he said, the board is "playing a very dangerous game," because they risk Halloran finding another job, and if he does leave voluntarily or by being forced out, the board has not left enough time to conduct a proper search for a replacement.

Nancy Norton Ammer, CEO of the Grundy Economic Development Council, spoke of Halloran's commitment to more than just the school district. He is chairman of the GEDC's Business Retention Committee and actively goes on retention visits to the county's businesses to find out what they need. In addition, he listens to what the businesses need from a workforce to make sure Morris students are leaving the school with the tools they need to become a part of that workforce.

She said Halloran not only has respect from the school community, but the business community as well.

Neither Halloran or any of the board members commented publicly on the issue.

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