Melvin Berry, a co-principal of the Proviso Math and Science Academy on paid administrative leave, has hired a Chicago attorney to challenge those sanctions put in place late last month.

Berry was suspended Sept. 27 by Superintendent Stan Fields for undisclosed reasons. Fields has declined to comment on the particulars of his decision, citing employee confidentiality laws.

Berry too, declined to comment on the suspension levied by Fields, and referred all questions to his attorney Lewis Myers. The high school principal is facing the possibility of being terminated by the Proviso Township Board of Education later this month.

“(Berry) has every intention to fight it,” Myers said. “He intends to fight it. That’s why he has me.”

A meeting between Berry and District 209 administrators to discuss the sanction will be scheduled prior to the board’s Oct. 23 meeting. Myers said he was not yet familiar with the details of Berry’s suspension and declined to comment on the reasons for such action.

Board President Chris Welch said Berry’s future with the district will ultimately be determined by the elected body. Deciding whether to terminate Berry, reinstate him or defer a decision will be based in part on any recommendation from the superintendent, Welch said.

“We do plan on discussing the Melvin Berry situation,” Welch said.

Berry’s suspension is the second for a PMSA administrator since the school year began in August. Fields also suspended former co-principal Richard Bryant for undisclosed reasons, and Bryant was terminated by the board on Sept. 25.

District officials never publicly accused Bryant of theft, but one day prior to Bryant’s suspension police received a complaint from the district that some $2,600 in student fees was missing. In the police report, witnesses name Bryant as the last person to handle the funds.

Bryant has not returned phone calls seeking comment on his termination. As of early October, Fields said the district has had no contact with Bryant.

On an interim basis Fields will serve as the academy’s principal as well as the superintendent of the Proviso high school district.

Following the last board of education meeting on Sept. 25, Fields began advertising to hire a single principal for the academy. It is the superintendent’s intention to do away with the co-principal system at PMSA. As of the first week of October, Fields said he discussed the job with at least four potential candidates.

“They are superstars,” Fields said of the applicants. “If any of these four were to join District 209, not only would it be an incredible boost for the math and science academy, it would be a boost for the entire district.”

Fields said he hopes to have a new principal in the building by Jan 1, 2007.