School board member Alice Saudargas sends mixed messages about superintendent
* School District News
By Jim Hagerty
With Election Day approaching, incumbent school board member Alice Saudargas (Sub District-C) seems to have changed her mind about whether Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield should remain employed by District 205.
Two days after being publicly scolded by Sheffield at the Feb. 22 meeting of the Rockford Board of Education, Saudargas defended herself, saying Sheffield is not the right person for the job.
“Here I am, one of her bosses,” Saudargas said Feb. 24, “and she did that.” “You don’t talk to people like that. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t true. If she had a problem with me, she should have spoken to me privately.”
Saudargas, 94, was refuting Sheffield’s claims that the board member lied about an attempt to contact her regarding a board meeting venue change.
Sheffield also reviled Saudargas for missing private meetings, saying, “Not only does she not show up, but she doesn’t call to cancel.”
The longtime educator admitted to missing a single session with Sheffield, however, was not bashful about her opinion of the district head and the decision to bring her to Rockford.
“I know where Dr. Sheffield is coming from,” Saudargas said last month. “She likes to be in control. “They made a mistake in hiring this person.”
March 27, Saudargas has a different message.
When asked by a WREX-TV reporter whether she is willing to working with Sheffield in the future, Saudargas said she welcomes the opportunity.
“(Sheffield’s) goals are the same as mine as far as children are concerned,” Saudargas said after a candidate forum at Zion Baptist Church. “Those were the goals I had in the schools I was principal of. But, I think her management style could be changed.”
While speaking during the forum, Saudargas muttered the words, “when we get a new superintendent.”
After a 15-minute break, Saudargas corrected the statement, saying she meant to use the words, “new board,” and did not mean to insinuate Sheffield was going to be dismissed.
“I’ve always gotten along with the superintendent,” Saudargas said.
Monday, March 28, Saudargas, who is backed by the Rockford Education Association (REA), echoed statements about Sheffield’s management style to The Rock River Times.
She would not, however, explain why she’s now willing to work with the superintendent.
“I don’t like her management style,” Saudgaras said. “That’s true. She knows that because I have told her personally. “She needs to be open and honest. But, I have to be careful what I say. That’s all I will tell you.”
Meantime, retired District 205 teacher Jane Hayes, hospital administrator and former Rock Valley College instructor Ken Scrivano and truck driver Mickey Simmons are challenging Saudargas in Sub District-C.
Scrivano and Hayes said last week they would support a motion to remove Sheffield.
“Not only do I support a motion to remove her,” Hayes said after a March 24 candidate forum, “I plan to make the motion myself. That is my first order of business.”
Simmons said Sheffield lacks accountability and deserves a chance to do her job with proper direction from the board. Saudargas declined to comment.
Sheffield has been under fire since the district closed seven schools, fired all non-tenured teachers and dismissed and reassigned more than 40 administrators. The basis for the cuts centers on the reported $50 million budget deficit for fiscal 2012, which begins July 1.
While Chicago consulting firm Baker Tilly reviewed three areas of the budget and found a possible $22 million in revenue, the board continues to support the budget presented by Sheffield and CFO Cedric Lewis.
Nine candidates will be on the Tuesday, April 5 ballot.
Incumbent Bob Evans (Sub District-E) is running unopposed. Local attorney Tim Rollins is challenging incumbent Jeanne Westholder in Sub District-B.
Former board member Bill Neblock and Laura Powers are seeking President David Kelley’s Sub District-G seat. Kelley is not seeking re-election.
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