A set of newly designed websites touted by District 209 as the crown jewel of its community outreach strategy will no longer be managed by the company who built them. Technivista’s executive director, Scott Schroeder, recently e-mailed a lengthy letter of resignation to the district’s interim superintendent, but said he did so grudgingly only after weeks passed without any direction from school administrators regarding several ongoing projects.
“I never heard back,” Schroeder said. “As the weeks progressed it became pretty apparent that something was wrong. I wasn’t hearing from anyone.”
Schroeder was hired by the school board following a recommendation by Superintendent Stan Fields to design eight public and private websites, which were launched successively beginning in February.
Several months earlier in November 2006, Schroeder presented the results of a district-wide evaluation that revealed Proviso students rank dead last in academic performance when compared to other public high schools in a seven-county area.
He has since been working with the district to install a set of 118 measurements, also adopted by the board, to assess the upturn in student performance Fields promised to deliver.
But since board members voted to place Fields on paid administrative leave July 30, Schroeder said communication with the district completely broke down. Finally, without notice, school officials changed the passwords used to access the websites, shutting Technivista out.
Interim Superintendent Robert Libka said Technivista was indeed locked out of the system, but only “following receipt of the resignation letter.” Schroeder e-mailed his resignation Aug. 12 and it was widely circulated among the staff before Libka ever saw it, according to the administrator. Several employees offered that they could handle the duties, Libka said.
As for Schroeder’s contention that he received no word from the district regarding his work, Libka said he put another department in charge of working with Schroeder.
Prior to Fields’ suspension on July 30, Schroeder communicated directly with the superintendent’s office, Libka said. Having just been shuffled into the corner office and with the school year rapidly approaching, Libka said he already had plenty on his plate.
“I thought it would be beneficial to realign some of those positions to keep the momentum moving forward,” Libka said.
Libka could not say for sure whether Schroeder was informed of this change.
Talks are underway to hire someone to manage the websites on a short-term basis before turning over the job completely to district staff. That arrangement could be as short as 90 days or as long as 12 months, Libka said.
Prior to his resignation, Schroeder said his company handled the day-to-day responsibilities for the sites at no cost to the district. He estimated the value of those services to be $70,000. It was never the plan for Technivista to manage the sites, Schroeder said, and, in fact, Fields wanted district employees to assume the responsibility immediately. But building principals and department heads were reluctant to make the websites a priority, Schroeder said.
The work was done for free because from the very beginning his intention was to build dramatic sites that would showcase Technivista’s capabilities, Schroeder said.
“We had spent so much time on these sites we didn’t want them to disintegrate into poor sites,” Schroeder said.
As for the 118 measurements Technivista was helping to install to gauge district performance, Libka said those strategies remain firmly in place. In his resignation Schroeder doubted whether this was the case, claiming that a deadline earlier this month for department heads to submit input on that process lapsed without a single data set being turned in.
“I think it’s an excellent model,” Libka said of the assessment process. “No one in staff is adverse to it. It’s an excellent structure.”