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Lincoln School principal placed on leave

Kristoff reportedly disciplined for insubordination

February 22nd, 2019 5:59 PM

Tara Kristoff

The principal at Lincoln School in Brookfield is on paid administrative leave after being accused of insubordination.

Principal Tara Kristoff was placed on leave on Feb. 14 by Co-interim Superintendent Robert Madonia one day after his fellow co-interim superintendent, Patrick Patt, attended a Lincoln School staff meeting that Kristoff held with teachers.

Kristoff being placed on leave was first reported by the Desplaines Valley News.

The letter sent to Kristoff officially placing her on paid administrative leave, published in the Desplaines Valley News, stated that Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 administration is investigating allegations that at the Feb. 13 meeting Kristoff made "derogatory and false statements about the District's Interim Superintendents to staff members."

The letter also says that district is investigating whether Kristoff engaged in "unprofessional and insubordinate conduct" and did not follow the agenda for the meeting.

The Landmark filed a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the letter, but Patt said that the district would deny the request, citing an exemption that applies to personnel records. However, district officials did not question the accuracy of the letter to Kristoff published in the Desplaines Valley News.

At the meeting Kristoff apparently didn't do what exactly what the superintendents told her to do.

"There were some issues with directives and issues that were supposed to be dealt with at the meeting and it didn't happen, and then it didn't happen again," said school board President Marge Hubacek

Madonia and Human Resources Director Kim Ontiveros confronted Kristoff on Feb. 14 and wanted to have a meeting with her. Kristoff apparently replied that she wouldn't have a meeting with Madonia without having her lawyer present. Then Madonia relieved her of her duties. He and Ontiveros escorted her out of the building, said two sources with knowledge of the situation but asked not to be identified.

Kristoff did not respond to a request for an interview. The letter informing Kristoff that she was being placed on leave ordered Kristoff not to discuss the allegations against her with anyone other than her attorney.

Madonia, who has had the prime responsibility for supervising Kristoff, was the superintendent in Frankfort School District 157C when Kristoff was a parent in the district.

Madonia would not comment on his interaction with Kristoff in Frankfort except to say that Kristoff asked him to be her supervisor for a graduate school practicum.

Madonia and Patt wouldn't say much about why Kristoff was placed on leave.

"I can't really speak to personnel issues, but there is a public news article that had that detailed in a letter," Madonia said.

Patt was also tight-lipped.

"Basically it's a personnel matter and we'll just see what evolves," Patt said.

Kristoff, who has a one-year contract, is now on indefinite leave. It is unclear whether she will return to Lincoln School.

"It's hard to predict until we see how this unfolds," Madonia said.

Kristoff, probably accompanied by her lawyer, is expected to meet with the school board in closed session on Monday Feb. 25.

Board member Shannon Johnson said that she is reserving judgment until hearing from all sides.

"I can't make a decision until I get all the facts," Johnson said. "I want to hear both sides of the story," Johnson said.

Kristoff is in her first year at Lincoln School. She was hired last June after working for regional office of education. She replaced Theresa Silva, who was a popular principal in her only year at Lincoln School, but she resigned last year after it became apparent that she would not be rehired. Silva is now serving as the interim principal at Lincoln School in Oak Park.

Former longtime Costello School Principal Andrea Maslan, who has been working as part-time curriculum consultant for District 103, has been serving as acting principal at Lincoln School since Kristoff was placed on leave.

Madonia, Patt, Hubacek and Johnson criticized whomever leaked the letter placing Kristoff on leave to the Desplaines Valley News.

"I don't know why somebody thought they should share that letter," Hubacek said.