D103 lays off 17 aides as officials look to outsource

All of the district's health aides, 10 instructional aides axed

June 2nd, 2020 2:59 PM

Among those showing up to protest the layoffs of District 103 aides were Slivia Verner (left), who was laid off from her job as a health aide at Edison School, and Chris Kosinski, a parapro at Edison who was not laid off. | Bob Skolnik/Contributor

By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

Sandy Kresen has worked for Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 for most of her adult life. She began as a library aide at George Washington School and then moved to Costello School when Washington became a middle school.

In addition to her library aide duties, nearly 20 years ago she began managing the district's before- and after-school childcare programs and also ran the district's camps during the summer, spring and winter breaks.

But late on the afternoon of May 26, just a few hours before a school board meeting, Kresen received a phone call from Superintendent Kristopher Rivera telling her that he was recommending that she would be laid off. 

At the school board meeting that night, the school board voted by the familiar 4 to 3 margin to lay off Kresen and 16 other aides.

"I'm shocked and devastated and heartbroken," Kresen told the Landmark the day after the board meeting. "I'm in shock. It's so hurtful."

Kresen said she had no idea that her job was in danger. Kresen, 61, has worked for District 103 for 29 years and was only couple of years away from retirement.

"I truly loved my job," Kresen said. "I loved going to work."

Kresen was the only library aide laid off. The main reason appears to be that Rivera apparently plans to outsource or eliminate the before- and after-school care program. 

During the board meeting, Rivera also said Kresen's relatively high salary was a factor in the layoff. Kresen made $52,000 this year, according to District 103 Human Resources Director Brian Towne.

"It's embarrassing after 30 years to be making what I make," Kresen said.

Because of her management responsibilities, Kresen was not part of the aides' union.

"With my position of doing the childcare, the camps and the library, I've never been able to be union," Kresen said. "But I know people who were union who were let go, so I don't think that would have helped any."

Kresen said that she never got involved in school board politics.

"I keep my nose out of everything and do my job," Kresen said.

Board members Sharon Anderson, Marge Hubacek, and Shannon Johnson voted against the layoffs.

Hubacek has known Kresen for more than 20 years, dating back to when Hubacek was a library aide at Home School in Stickney.

"She's a great person, she's a hard worker. I think, most of all, she really loves the kids and the district," Hubacek said. "When she took over that before and after care and the camps she just did a phenomenal job. It's a shame what they're doing."

Voting in favor of the layoffs were board members Vito Campanile, Olivia Quintero, Winfred Rodriquez, and board President Jorge Torres.

Along with Kresen, all six of the district's health aides and 10 instructional aides were laid off, a little more than 25 percent of the district's total of 60 aides.

During the meeting Rivera said the health aides were laid off because when schools reopen the district might have to have a certified nurse at each school instead of an uncertified health aide.

"They are very, very restricted," Rivera said of the health aides. "They cannot do certain things in the health office."

Among those laid off were longtime Lincoln School health aide Roberta Lezon.

"She does a lot more than just putting Band-Aids on," said Krystal Steiner, a former president of the Lincoln School PTA. "She does all the records stuff. Kids need a safe place to go when they get hurt. I can't see that hiring an LPN or an RN from an agency, which is what I understood is their plan. It's going to be a different person every day."

Instructional aides often work with special needs students, often on a one-on-one basis. Rivera said it is possible that next year one aide will be assigned to work with two students.

The aides, both instructional and health aides, worked the entire school year without a contract after union members voted down an offer recommended by their negotiating team in November. Further negotiations stalled during the pandemic and now appear headed to mediation.

Rivera said that, depending on circumstances, some of the aides could be called back to work in the fall.

"This is a layoff," Rivera said. "If we get notified that these positions are suited for doing certain jobs, we can consider coming back or we can consider options. This gives me flexibility at a time when we don't know where we're going to end up in August."

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  • Cynthia D Verzal-Manteck (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: June 4th, 2020 10:10 AM

    I'm really saddened -no angry that the children of D103 are pawns for politics. Never in all the years that my children went to school in D103 was there ever so much disarray, dishonesty, distrust, evil doings, etc. All of this mismanagement of D103 funds is not acceptable?"nepotism at its finest. The children were without Science books and other resources the last time PSE was on the Board and this time it's even worse. D103 has a one star rating?"wow, you should be so proud. Because of all the political crap going on, these children are being cheated out of a good education. How many teachers stick around is this unstable environment. When my children attended D103, I think that maybe one teacher left, However, it wasn't because she hated her job, she left happy. D103 children are so far behind the schools around us and High School is hard for them because of this. Don't you care that you're taking away a good education. Now any help they need will possibly be outsourced? How can the children trust someone that isn't a "constant" in their school. Now Ms. Baker was brought back after the asbestos fiasco and her lawsuit for monies "due" her. The parents have spoken up many times on deaf ears. The PSE four in the board have taken away support staff so they can hire big salary allies in politics to run our district into the ground?"at the expense of the children. Do you even care about the quality of education in D103. Anyone selling your house, good luck with a lousy school rating. Who wants to move here with children when they won't get a good education. Please look into your hearts and do what is right for the kids. You were elected because your campaign was funded heavily by Mr. Getty's political funds. Those seats are bought, not earned. I'm totally disgusted that this District is run for political gain. How do you sleep at night knowing that you are hurting the children and D103? So sad.....

  • Toni Parker (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: June 3rd, 2020 5:55 PM

    Union - or non-union - employees generally don't make recurring campaign contributions to local politicians like the ones in VOL whose campaign funds contributed five figures to return their PSE candidates to the board majority. Firms that have benefitted from waves of outsourcing of functions formerly performed in-house, however, have been known to show their appreciation generously. What Rivera and PSE have NOT done thus far, not in this latest case of layoffs, not in the what looks to be a $1,000,000 plus contract with QNS over three years for IT services and unjustified equipment purchases, and not in the previous terminations and RIFs, is make a case to the public that the outsourcing will not compromise quality and scope of services. Nor have the Administration and the PSE Board majority proved there is in fact a fiscal or other benefit to these moves and that the Superintendent's stated rationales behind them are supported by hard and real data, not conveniently wishful thinking.

  • Stephanie Pyka Konidaris (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: June 3rd, 2020 4:19 PM

    This is beyond sad. That district leadership has been and continues to be evil, there really is not a better adjective to describe it. No regard for morals or human respect. This is why I chose to leave after 8 years of teaching there, among many other things. The children and community are absolutely wonderful but the school district is corrupt and dishonest. I was hoping after I left it would become better for the teachers there, but sadly I see that it hasn't. I am so sorry to hear this news for Sandy and for all the kids whose hearts she has touched.

  • Mike Zaruki (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: June 2nd, 2020 5:38 PM

    This school board (at least the majority) is pathetic. Nothing but lapdogs.

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