D86 racking up superintendent expenses

Board to spend about $500,000 to pay for Prentiss and two interim superintendents

Hinsdale High School District 86 will spend $312,000 for two interim superintendents to work a total of 240 days between now and June 30.

The board voted 5-0 July 20 to hire Linda Yonke and Raymond Lechner to work 120 days each at a cost of $1,300 a day, starting July 24.

"On behalf of the board, I want to congratulate Dr. Linda Yonke and Dr. Raymond Lechner on their appointment as co-interim superintendents for District 86," board President Cat Greenspon said in a written statement. "Dr. Yonke and Dr. Lechner are lifelong educators and well-respected administrators whose knowledge, experience and expertise have greatly benefited the schools and communities they have served during their illustrious careers. We are excited to have them here in our district and look forward to working with them to ensure that the year ahead and transition to our next permanent superintendent are successful."

Yonke has more than 25 years of experience as a school administrator, including 11 as superintendent and two as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in New Trier High School District 203. Prior to that she was a principal for 12 years at three different high schools. Since retiring, she has served as the interim superintendent for Township High School District 113 in Highland Park and Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205.

She holds a bachelor's degree in history from Albion College, a master's degree in language and literature from Governors State University and an advanced certificate in educational administration and doctorate in educational organization from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Lechner also has significant administrative experience. He spent 12 years as the superintendent and eight as the assistant superintendent for special education and student services in Wilmette Elementary District 89. He also has been a director of special education, assistant director of student services and school psychologist.

Since retiring, he has served as an interim superintendent in four districts: Marquardt Elementary District 15, Bensenville Elementary District 2, DeKalb Community Unit District 428 and Center Cass Elementary District 66.

He has a bachelor's degree in psychology and master's degree in school psychology from Northern Illinois University, a master's degree in educational administration from Governors State University and a doctorate in educational psychology from Loyola University Chicago.

"We are truly honored to have been selected as the District 86 co-interim superintendents for the 2023-24 school year and are eager to partner with the board of education and administration to help the district move forward during this period of transition," Yonke and Lechner said in a written statement. "By capitalizing on our extensive administrative experience, we hope to provide steady leadership, promote stability and help create conditions that will enable the district's next permanent superintendent to be successful when they take over next year."

The two said they will focus on supporting faculty and staff.

"However, our most important work will be to prioritize collaboration with the district's various stakeholders in order to meet the needs of all students and help them thrive both in and out of the classroom."

Additional expenses

Superintendent Tammy Prentiss will remain on paid leave during this time period, earning a prorated amount of her $277,000 a year salary. She agreed to resign effective March 31, 2024 after the board placed her on paid administrative leave in May.

The board spent $16,841 in May in legal fees with Robbins Schwartz, the firm it hired to provide "legal advice and other services related to the employment, compensation, performance and potential discipline or dismissal of a current employee."

The invoice, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request filed by The Hinsdalean, shows the firm charged $270 to $305 an hour for video/teleconferences, review and analysis, and attended two board meetings at a cost of $1,220 each. Most of the wording on the description of services was redacted on the invoice.

The board will spend another $25,000 or more to find a permanent replacement for Prentiss. The board is expected to select a firm to conduct a nationwide search for a new superintendent at its meeting tonight, July 27. Members heard presentations July 20 from two firms that hope to secure the business. One timeline indicates the board could vote to approve a new superintendent, who would start next summer, by the end of this calendar year.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean