We were as surprised as anyone last week upon receiving word that Kaneland interim superintendent Dr. Ken Sorrick had resigned from his position just one day after the School Board voted to hire him. We were also confused by the resignation, as Sorrick’s statements during the meeting suggested that he was eager to go to work for the Kaneland School District.
“I hope I can help out (and) help the district out,” Sorrick said on Aug. 25. “Really, I think the main goal that the district has is to find a permanent superintendent. And so I’m going to help them out with that search and get that process going. And I think it will bring more stability to the district once you have that position filled.”
Such a statement is the last thing you’d expect to hear from someone ready to bolt the altar at the absolute last possible moment. And so we began to wonder just what could have inspired Sorrick to go from “all in” to “somebody please get me out of here” in the span of roughly 24 hours. Did he get cold feet? Did he prefer to stay retired? Did a conflict of interest suddenly arise?
The answer is none of the above.
Upon receiving Sorrick’s letter of resignation last Friday, we realized that his decision to hastily change course was due to a “certain personality on the board,” according to the letter.
“The way a certain board member disrespects you, disrespects the superintendent, disrespects the assistant superintendent, disrespected your union representative and disrespected me would make it difficult or impossible for me to accomplish some of the basic tasks of being a superintendent,” Sorrick wrote in his letter of resignation. “He does not function in a business-like manner, and he turns concerns into personal attacks on others. He does not want to solve problems; he wants to create problems.”
We’re quite certain we know who Sorrick is referring to in his letter, as this is a familiar tune we’ve heard all too often from this School Board member the past three years. This is the same trustee who stands up for what he believes is right by interrupting and even sometimes insulting fellow trustees and district staff—he called longtime School Board member Elmer Gramley a “rubber stamp” during a meeting in September 2011; and during a meeting in March 2012, he repeatedly tried to talk over an active board vote by repeating the phrase “point of order,” and attempted to shout down a fellow board member.
Dr. Sorrick’s near-immediate exit last week is just another indication that this over-the-top behavior cannot continue. Enough is enough, Tony Valente.
Looking at this situation objectively, one can see how trustee Valente is simply trying to play devil’s advocate with the School Board because someone needs to ask the tough questions, and he’s clearly willing to do just that. And that would be a perfectly acceptable role for him to fill if not for the crude dialogue and unfair statements that often rear their ugly head whenever Valente feels it’s necessary to challenge an item or point during a School Board meeting.
It’s certainly not impossible to ask the tough questions and double- and triple-check facts while remaining friendly—or at least civil—with the rest of the School Board. Take former board trustee Joe Oberweis as an example. He was relentless when it came to details and understanding each and every concept present on the meeting agenda, but he used that approach because he felt he owed it to every student enrolled in the Kaneland School District, as well as the taxpayers. And he was always respectful and courteous, even when he disagreed with a fellow board member.
Maybe you can say the same about Mr. Valente when it comes to caring about students in the Kaneland district, but his actions during meetings completely undermine whatever good ideas and intentions he brings to the table. And that’s a shame.
Don’t just take our word for it, though. Ask Dr. Sorrick.
“Having a board member walk out of an executive session when we are talking about the superintendent search and accusing us of unethical behavior is not the way I want to start a job,” Sorrick wrote in his letter of resignation. “I understand that he is just one board member, but he is not interested in advancing the educational process; he is interested in sabotaging the organization. I do not want to work in such a hostile environment.”
Normally we’d end an editorial of this nature by politely asking the person in question to tone down the harsh behavior. However, we requested as much from Mr. Valente in March 2012, so we’re long past that point. Instead, we’ll go with this: if you truly want to improve the School District and the educational experience for every student enrolled in it, start by improving yourself—lead by example, ask the tough questions, be relentless when it comes to the small details; but do it nicely, and with the compassion and respect that has become a sort of rallying cry in the Kaneland community. We don’t want you to agree with every agenda item or suggestion that comes down the pipeline; we simply want the circus-like behavior to stop.
And if you can’t do that, maybe it’s time to find someone who can.