D209 administrator resigns

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By JOSH ADAMS

WEB EXTRA!
Robert Libka, assistant superintendent at the Proviso township high school district, has submitted his resignation to the District 209 Board of Education, and a vote on the letter is expected at the Oct. 23 meeting.

 

In his Oct. 5 letter, Libka makes no direct reference to allegations of questionable spending practices that may have occurred during his tenure as an interim superintendent or chief education officer. Most recently, newly hired Superintendent Stan Fields said he learned of personal expenses billed to the district by Libka.

 

"This past year has been a terrific blessing to me personally, I am indebted to you, the board, for the opportunity to lead our schools, develop external partnerships, introduce new initiatives and grow personally," Libka said in his letter.

 

Libka goes on to request that his resignation take effect on June 30, 2007, however at least one board member is calling for his immediate dismissal.

 

It was not clear whether Libka was pressured to submit his resignation. According to records obtained by the Review under the Freedom of Information Act, Libka billed taxpayers for more than $10,000 to attend classes at Western Illinois University. Using district funds, Libka wrote a check to the university on Feb. 14 for $9,000 to cover tuition expenses and then sought the board's approval more than a month later at the March board of education meeting.

 

At the time of the transaction, Libka was serving as an interim administrator.

 

Board member Charles Flowers said he suspects Libka's actions were criminal, and may forward those concerns to the Cook County state's attorney.

 

"If he is not terminated, I will forward this information because at that point it's clearly a criminal act."

 

Libka spent more than $10,700 in public funds on his own education. Roughly $9,500 went toward tuition and books and the remainder paid for Libka's gas and hotel costs to attend the classes in Moline, Ill. Fields said the apparent indiscretion is one more example of how the district's lack of internal controls has wreaked havoc on its finances.

 

"School code requires the board of education to approve checks before they're released," Fields said.

 

Minutes of the March, 2006 board meeting show that Theresa Kelly, Gary

Marine and Flowers voted in the minority not to authorize the expense. Calls to majority board members Shirley Madlock, Daniel Adams and President Chris Welch were not returned Friday afternoon. Sue Henry could not be reached for comment.

 

Libka did not return phone calls for comment.

 

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, Western Illinois University is the only school in the state offering the alternative certification course for education administrators. Libka has a provisional certificate issued by Western Illinois University in July that is good for one year. He was working toward a five-year certification.

 

According to Flowers, it was no coincidence that the district's interim administrator was attending the state's only alternative certification program at Western Illinois University. When Libka was appointed to the superintendent's job on an interim basis, several education oversight groups stepped in and said Libka was not properly certified.

 

Libka's title was officially changed to chief education officer as a result, and Phylistine Murphy was named the interim superintendent.

 

Flowers, however, said he raised the allegation months ago during an executive session that majority board members were attempting to shuffle Libka through the certification process as a "quick fix."

 

"They knew it was illegal and they were trying to fix their error in appointing him to superintendent," Flowers said.

 

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