Part 2 of Steinhert, Lake Forest Middle School Principal, caught in texting scandal- -Citizen dissatisfaction with results of Attorney Safer’s investigation

March 11, 2012

There is no need to explain in full detail about the situation which led to the appointment of Attorney Ronald Safer to investigate Lake Forest’s shared superintendent of Districts 67 and 115 of the Lake Forest Schools, Dr. Harry Griffith, and the District 67 Board for their actions in January of 2009, as that has been well documented in the media.

But to refresh your memory, the 2009 incident with John Steinent, then principal of the Deerpath Middle School in Lake Forest, involved troubling charges made against Steinert by a young woman who received sexually explicit texts from him.  http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2011/11/how-high-does-accountability-go-in-lake-forest-filthy-texting-scandal.html?cid=6a00d83451b4ba69e201543718ffbd970c    
 
The incident came to light on November 16, 2011, when the Chicago Tribune published a story about the Steinert 2009 incident, which detailed how the case was handled at the time by the District 67 school board and superintendent, Dr. Harry Griffith.  http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-11-18/news/ct-met-suburban-middle-school-20111118_1_lewd-texts-gurnee-police-messages

The initial Tribunearticle, and those which followed, opened up a can of worms among many residents of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.

The issuance of the Safer report on February 28th didn’t quell the angst and the outrage that still exists over the report’s conclusions.  Many citizen taxpayers, including me, have dubbed the report as a whitewash in its conclusions concerning both district personnel and Griffith in how they dealt with the 2009 Steinert situation.

First off Safer related in a summary of his 8-page report that of the three specific areas of his investigation, Parts one and two were easy to ascertain.  Both dealt with whether there was an existing school policy in place to determine if the school district’s policies and procedures were followed, or if an existing one needed to be changed or revised (There was no direct policy in place to cover Steinert’s behavior, as never before had the Lake Forest School System been confronted with a similar situation.).

Safer’s remarks throughout his presentation to the seventy-five plus individuals assembled in the West Campus Board Room off Waukegan Road, were geared to convincing the audience that part three of the investigation — “To determine whether any wrongdoing was committed with the matter at the time” – was through and that the conclusion was correct in finding that was no intentional wrongdoing by either the board or Griffith in the 2009 Steinert criminal infraction.

Many present did not buy into Safer’s conclusions of complete innocence with no effort to conceal, or that the investigation conducted by Safer had been thorough.

One-by-one concerned citizens came to the podium with its microphone to address their misgivings.  In a few incidences there were intense exchanges of rhetoric between Attorney Safer and the questioners.

Attorney Safer did admit that Griffith and the board were inexperienced with the criminal justice system, leaving both without guidance in pursuing additional information on Steinert.

The children enrolled in Lake Forest schools seem to know more than our educational leadership about the rights of every American to attend open court hearings and to obtain public documents.

It defies all logic and common sense to suggest that practicing attorneys who are experienced litigators serving on the school board and who are contracted and paid to advise the school board don’t know that criminal matters require advice from criminal attorneys.

Safer concluded that both Griffith and the Board believed they had insufficient information concerning the conduct of Steinert, yet Safer’s report indicated that they had an accurate understanding as to the serious nature of the texts and that harassment had occurred.   All that was left out of Griffith’s report to the Board was the photo.  Regardless, the board had enough without the photo to act swiftly on Steinert’s employment and the Board’s attorney advised the Board to do so.

In Griffth’s mind Steinert was an excellent principal who was well liked by the both students and parents and Griffith.

None of it adds up.

Steinert pleaded guilty to a crime and Griffith would have us believe it was just flirtatious cell phone calls and no big deal. Even if as reported Superintendent Griffith was worried about cancer at the time, this didn’t give Griffith license to overlook Steinert’s actions.  There was also an assistant superintendent under Griffith to keep Griffith informed if disposed in some way.

Another odd wrinkle in the story was that soon after the charging of Steinert on Jan. 27, 2009, written evaluations were due for principals, by law, on Feb. 1st.  The board asked that Steinert’s contract not be renewed in its January 27th meeting, but a month or so later Griffith came back to the board and asked that Steinert be retained under a series of conditions, including counseling.

The board did agree to keep Steinert on board as the Deerpath Middle School principal, in what looks like a board only too willing to acquiesce  to Griffith’s wishes.

It would be helpful to know the conditions under which Steinert’s contract was renewed.  One fact that is known is how Steinert’s compensation went from $90K in 2008, to $140K in 2009, to $150 K in 2010 and to $168,461in 2011 (Base salary $133,941; bonuses, $3,050; other benefits, $31,470) when there was suppose to be a salary freeze in place.

Might these outrageous increases in salaries be true and consistent for the rest of the teachers and administrators in Lake Forest School Districts 67 and 115?

The following link is your guide to find compensation details for all teachers and administrators in Lake Forest’s District 67 and 115, as well as the same for in any school district in Illinois.  http://www.isbe.net/research/htmls/salary_report.htm <http://www.isbe.net/research/htmls/salary_report.htm>

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