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D103 teacher charged with attempted murder placed on leave

School officials say criminal case wasn't revealed during background checks

October 23rd, 2018 12:44 PM

Andres Rodriguez

By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

A man charged with attempted murder more than a year ago had been teaching at George Washington Middle School in Lyons this year until he was placed on paid administrative leave Oct. 19. 

The hiring of Andres Rodriguez at GWMS and him being placed on leave was first reported by the Daily Southtown. GWMS is part of Lyons-Brookfield School District 103, which serves the southeast quarter of Brookfield.

Rodriguez was hired in late August to teach sixth-grade language arts at GWMS. He was charged with attempted murder after allegedly shooting a man seven times during an altercation in Tinley Park in July 2017. Rodriguez's court case is pending, and he has not been convicted of any crime. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the case.

District 103 officials say that they first learned of the charges against Rodriguez on Oct. 18 and then put him on paid administrative leave the next morning. He has been instructed to stay away from GWMS, said Co-Interim Superintendent Patrick Patt, who met with Rodriguez on Oct. 19 to inform him that he was being placed on leave.

Rodriguez, 40, who went by the first name of "Andrew" in District 103, was one of 11 teachers the school board voted to hire as part of the consent agenda at the Aug. 28 board meeting. 

The vote to approve the consent agenda was 5 to 1 with Jorge Torres, who has routinely voted against approving the consent agenda since his faction lost control of the school board in 2017, casting the only no vote.

District 103 officials say they had no idea that Rodriguez had been charged with attempted murder until last week. District officials say the standard background check school districts in Illinois use for all new employees, which includes running fingerprints through databases maintained by the Illinois State Police and the FBI, did not reveal the attempted murder charge against Rodriguez or his arrest, because such reports only show convictions. 

"All the checks were done. The references were checked. We did our due diligence," Patt said.

Rodriguez holds a valid Illinois teaching license, because he has not been convicted of any crime.

He had been teaching in Joliet District 86 when he was charged with attempted murder in July 2017. Rodriguez, who taught at District 86 for 10 years, was placed on paid administrative leave in August 2017 and formally resigned in May 2018, according to Sandra Zalewski, District 86's director of communications and community development. 

While on paid leave from District 86, Rodriguez managed to get hired by Cicero School District 99 to work at Unity Junior High School as an internal substitute teacher and detention supervisor at the start of the 2017-18 school year. 

Last winter officials in Cicero apparently became aware of the charges against Rodriguez. He was placed on paid leave in February and then terminated at the end of the school year.

District 103 officials say that when Rodriguez applied for the job at GWMS, he never disclosed that he had worked in Cicero, and that when District 103 officials checked his references in Joliet district, they were never told of the circumstances of his leaving that district.

"From what I can tell, the only job we were told about was Joliet District 86 and those references were all checked," Patt said.

However, the spokeswoman for Joilet District 86 said their central office hadn't been contacted by District 103.

"We never received a phone call from the Lyons school district regarding Mr. Rodriguez," said Zalewski. "We didn't get anything from the district office. I don't know if they, you know, called a teacher or something like that, but at the administration office we did not receive a phone call."

When asked about Zalewski's statement, Co-Interim Superintendent Robert Madonia said it wasn't accurate.

"We talked to Joliet 86 personnel," Madonia said.

When asked whether District 103 officials talked to anyone from the District 86 central office or a teacher or someone else, Madonia said, "I won't comment any further on that."

District 103 Human Resources Director Kim Ontiveros declined to comment about Rodriguez's hiring, saying that she could not comment on a personnel matter. GWMS Principal Don Jones also declined to comment about the hiring process. 

Patt would not comment about whether the district might attempt to terminate Rodriguez.

"All I can do is conjecture, and I'm not about to do that right now because our attorneys would go ballistic," Patt said.