To anyone who closely follows the comings and goings of Oswego School District 308, the news Wednesday that Superintendent Dan O’Donnell had handed in his resignation came as no great surprise.
O’Donnell and his administrative team have been not-so-quietly butting heads with the new School Board majority since their first meeting last spring. O’Donnell’s resignation was more of a case of when, and not if.
As the old saying goes, to the victor goes the spoils, or even more so, elections have consequences. Board members Bill Walsh, Brent Lightfoot and Alison Swanson were elected in a pretty convincing fashion.
For the most part, all three gave a pretty clear vision of how they wanted the district run. Their biggest campaign promise and most immediate action was to stop the planning and construction of a third high school in Plainfield—a project administrators had spent years advocating. Stopping that was accomplished in short order and left some deep scars.
Many have commented this week that O’Donnell’s resignation is the fault of the current board majority, which also includes Board Member Laurie Pasteris. It’s understandable that people would lash out; O’Donnell is a well-liked and respected man from Missouri with the same Midwestern sensibilities that many in this community value.
I’ve worked with many school superintendents in my time as a community journalist. Most of them have been aloof, unconcerned about the well-being of individual students and would never dream of stepping out of their office and into a classroom.
The same could not be said of O’Donnell. He is a kind, polite and genuine man who has his boots on the ground.
O'Donnell's also a very intelligent man. That’s why he must have known his days would be numbered in District 308 the night the final vote was counted last April.
Parents can all feel sad that he’s leaving, but blaming the board is missing the target by half.
To the victor goes the spoils. Elections have consequences. I can hear it now, “Turnout was so low. How can anyone claim a mandate?”
Whose fault is that, exactly? Walsh, Swanson, Lightfoot? Sadly, in the end, it doesn’t matter how many people vote in an election. It matters who gets the most votes.
This board, support it or not, has a vision. That vision does not include O’Donnell or many of the other administrators that are part of his team.
Assistant Superintendent Todd Colvin knew that well and handed in his resignation in January. Don’t be surprised to see others close behind.
Not many school districts these days have top administrators that stick around for more than a few years at a time. It’s a sign of how political even school boards have become. It’s obvious our schools could benefit from stability at the very top, but those days are gone.
What’s also obvious is the resignation, the recent battles over boundaries and the third high school debate have deeply divided the school community. Walsh and the rest of the board will have a hard time in the coming months and years repairing the upheaval that’s been created. How they will do that remains to be seen.
On Monday night, parents will line up to vent their anger at the school board during the public comment portion of their meeting. That will be just the first step righting what they see as wrong. The final should come in April 2013 when four more board seats will be up for election.