After spending almost a month on paid administrative leave, Stan Fields resigned as the superintendent of the Proviso Township High School District, though it’s unclear whether several issues alluded to in his resignation letter are the same concerns that prompted the board to suspend him in the first place.
Fields did not attend an Aug. 27 meeting of the District 209 school board, however, his letter of resignation was read into the record.
“I do realize that during my tenure I could have kept the board more informed about certain projects, vendors and contractors of the district,” Fields said in his letter. “I accept and take full responsibility for the lack of communication.”
No specific projects or contracts are mentioned in the document and board members have not stated publicly their reasons for voting to suspend Fields on July 30. At the time the suspension was handed down, board members said Fields’ future with the district would be determined through an internal termination hearing process. No such hearing was ever scheduled, but the Aug. 27 meeting was called in-part for the purpose of setting a date to begin that process.
Fields’ decision to quit the job obviously eliminates the need for a hearing.
Board member and Forest Park resident Bob Cox said he was more or less satisfied with the outcome of Monday’s meeting and said the board has likely made a sound decision. A severance package has been negotiated, Cox said, but he declined to comment on any specific terms or dollar amount.
“Nobody walks away for nothing,” Cox said after Monday’s meeting. “That would probably be a good way to characterize this.”
According to a copy of Fields’ contract with the district, the former superintendent received an annual salary of $180,000. A tax sheltered annuity of $13,000 and an annual bonus of $25,000 were also part of Fields’ compensation.
Fields was hired by the district on Aug. 23, 2006, and was to be employed through June 30, 2009, according to the document.
Fields did not return calls to his cell phone seeking comment.
Interim Superintendent Robert Libka also declined to release the specifics of any severance package negotiated with Fields and referred further inquiries to the district’s attorney. A phone call to attorney Michael DeBartolo was not immediately returned.
A written statement released by District 209 described Fields’ resignation letter as a “public apology.” In his statement, Fields apologized to the district and community members for not fulfilling the length of his contract, however, no other direct apologies are made. The former superintendent did acknowledge that his actions were destructive.
“I should have been more cognizant of the importance of communication between the board and its superintendent,” Fields said in his letter. “It is apparent that my actions led to a deterioration of trust between myself and the board.”
Though the letter makes no reference to specific incidents, board members were visibly frustrated with a fundraising effort organized by Fields and staffed with community volunteers. For several months, Fields met with the volunteers he selected for the project and a consultant hired by the district to help establish a non-profit organization.
The consultant was fired and the volunteers were disbanded by the school board in early August, apparently in favor of a similar fundraising effort that would be controlled by the board. Establishing a tax exempt organization as Fields attempted to do would have stripped the school board of any control over those funds.
President Chris Welch said at the time of the vote that all residents in Proviso Township would be encouraged to participate. Such an open process was absent from Fields’ efforts, Welch said.
Libka, meanwhile, will continue to serve as the district’s top administrator while the board solicits applications for a new superintendent. According to Libka, a consultant will not be hired to help identify potential candidates and board members expect to review applications at their next meeting on Sept. 24.
“It’s a fairly aggressive process,” Libka said.
Libka, who has served in several administrative capacities in recent years for the district, confirmed he is interested in the job.