District 203 extends superintendent’s contract

<p>Dan Bridges  |  File photo</p>

Dan Bridges  |  File photo

Members of the Naperville School District 203 Board of Education on Monday night showed Superintendent Dan Bridges how much confidence they have in Bridges at the helm by extending his contract for four years.

The contract now runs through June 30, 2019.

Under the contract, the salary of $230,288 will remain the same, and salary increases will be considered annually.

Members of the School Board praised Bridges for his leadership.

“The school board is extremely pleased with the leadership Superintendent Bridges has provided to our students, staff, faculty and our district over the last two years,” said School Board President Jackie Romberg. “Dan is a strong, collaborative and visionary leader who has moved our school community in a positive direction. We are excited about what he can help us achieve from here.”

Other board members echoed Romberg’s comments.

Board member Suzyn Price said the board’s primary job is choosing a superintendent and the contract extension was the board’s attempt to keep Bridges in the district as long as possible.

Donna Wandke, who was elected to the School Board in 2013, thanked Bridges for all the help he’s provided and questions he’s answered since she came in a year ago.

“It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your cabinet,” she said.

Board member Susan Crotty said Monday’s contract extension is a vote of confidence in Bridges.

Board member Kristin Fitzgerald added, “They always say a ship reflects the captain.”

Romberg said Bridges is an outstanding communicator and leader who is committed to transparency and putting students and student achievement at the center of every decision.

In his two years as superintendent, Bridges brought in all-day kindergarten and updated the curriculum development process that includes moves to help meet the new Common Core State Standards.

Bridges said he was grateful for the board’s continued confidence.

“I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by a very talented leadership team,” he added. Speaking to the other school administrators at Monday’s meeting, Bridges said the contract extension “is a reflection of the great work of this team of leaders.”

Bridges was appointed as superintendent in August 2012 after serving as interim superintendent for three months. Previously, Bridges served as assistant superintendent of secondary education in District 203. Before that, Bridges served in a number of leadership positions in West Aurora School District 129, including principal of West Aurora High School.

Lawsuit settled

A confidential settlement was reached in a two-year-old lawsuit against West Aurora School District, its superintendent and Bridges over allegations related to a sex abuse case while Bridges was principal at West Aurora.

Kane County Judge F. Keith Brown dismissed with prejudice the lawsuit filed in 2012 by a student who attended West Aurora High School.

The young woman, who is identified in court documents as Jane Doe, was a victim of West Aurora’s former high school band director Steve Orland. Orland is serving 12 years in prison for the sexual abuse of two female students, one of whom is Doe.

Orland was dropped from Doe’s lawsuit on Jan. 17. The case against him also was dismissed with prejudice.

Doe’s lawsuit alleged that the school district, Superintendent James Rydland and Bridges failed to protect her from Orland, despite having knowledge of the band director’s past inappropriate behavior with a student in 2010.

Doe alleged that the district, Rydland and Bridges failed to supervise the former teacher or remove him from his post, putting Doe and other female students at risk for abuse.

Doe’s lawyer, Craig Brown, said recently that “the dispute is completely resolved,” but he could not comment on the terms or timeline of the resolution.

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office conducted a 10-month investigation that wrapped up last spring into whether or not West Aurora staff should have reported suspicions of child abuse by Orland to the state sooner than they did.

That investigation stemmed from a July 2010 incident in which a custodian saw Orland in a dark band storage room with a female student. The custodian said he saw Orland standing in front of a young woman who was pressed up against a wall. He said when he entered the room, Orland fled.

The custodian reported that incident to his superiors, but did not call the state’s Department of Children and Family Services, known as DCFS. The custodian said he thought his superiors would make the call.

District administrators conducted an internal investigation into the incident, but decided not to call DCFS or the police.

The state’s attorney said last May that the July 2010 incident should have been reported to DCFS and that there was enough evidence to charge some school staff with failure to report child abuse, a Class A misdemeanor.

The investigation found as many as 10 West Aurora staffers had knowledge of the incident and did not report it to DCFS or the police.

Instead, the state’s attorney’s office entered into a five-year agreement with the district that requires its staff to receive more training about state-mandated responsibilities to report suspected child abuse and neglect.