With only four days before the start of school but 10 years of experience at Mokena District 159 behind him, Steve Stein sounded more relaxed Thursday than perhaps he should.
He took the job of interim superintendent only one week prior and faces an impressive deficit, the task of reviving extracurricular programs and a possible school closure. Classes start today.
How’s that for trial by fire?
“I know the teaching staff and many of the constituents in the community, from people who have children in school to those who don’t, so … my comfort level in terms of getting myself settling in is pretty good,” Stein said.
“I feel I’m getting my feet underneath me and ready to venture forth professionally with this challenge.”
Stein, the former principal of , was appointed to the superintendent position after .
“He certainly has character,” Mokena 159 Board President John Troy said. “The way he interacts with staff, the way that he interacts with the community are all positive. And his experience and tenure with the district made him a good choice.”
In a letter to the school board, dated July 21, former Supt. Perry said she would not return to the district for the 2012-2013 school year, but would continue to serve to the best of her abilities.
She’s now an assistant to the superintendent until June 30, 2012, when her contract expires. Her duties include acting as the liaison to the Will County Regional Superintendent of Schools' Truancy Office, assuming an interim principal's duties during absences, coordinating and managing lunchroom supervision, and assisting with supervising athletic and extracurricular events. Some of those duties may overlap those of Assistant Supt. Charles Vitton, Troy said.
A $2.7 million deficit led the district under Perry to cut staff and extracurriculars while pursuing three failed referendums.
“We need to prioritize budgetary issues,” Stein said, and find ways to keep extracurricular programs, which “provide a wholeness of education” To do so, he said he would continue to look at the process that was set in Lemont between its school district and a “local booster group” that helps pay for extracurriculars.
Another glaring issue is the future of Mokena Intermediary School, and “the board is going to need to come to some final resolve on (it) this fall, whatever that decision is,” he said. “If the decision is to close the building, then we need to start that planning process as soon as we can, because bringing those students to the Mokena Elementary School is going to be a cumbersome process.”
For now, he said he’s simply “willing to listen and learn,” hoping to continue the chance to lead Mokena 159 permanently.
Prior to coming to Mokena, Stein said he worked as an assistant principal in Plainfield, principal in Grant Park, and teacher in Peotone and Beecher.
Of Stein’s appointment, Troy contended earlier this month that “interim is just that: interim.” He was no less adamant about it on Thursday, though he declined comment on what he called “a personnel matter that has to be resolved in closed session.” Nor would he offer a timeline on finding a permanent superintendent.
Stein's former position has been taken over by MJHS’s assistant principal, Chris Clavenna. Although Clavenna was also appointed on an interim basis, the district is accepting applications for her former position. Again, Troy denied comment on whether this move suggests that the appointment of both Clavenna and Stein are permanent.
Stein's pay will remain the same until a permanent contract as superintendent is negotiated. During the 2009-2010 school year, he made $109,376.56, according to the Illinois State Board of Education’s Teacher Service Record, which also lists Perry’s salary of $140,728.51.