Westmont High School’s new principal has skills and experience, but is he the right man for the job? Hiring a proven talent often leads to improved performance, but personal baggage also can create new problems to replace the old ones.
Community Unit School District 201 hired Jack Baldermann this week to be the new principal at Westmont High School. He formerly served as superintendent/principal of Riverside Brookfield Township High School District 208 and left under questionable circumstances.
Baldermann has shown he can be a very effective academic administrator. Riverside Brookfield High School saw significant increases in PSAE scores and graduation rates when he was there. And it ranked in the top 150 schools in America by Newsweek for his last four years.
However, Baldermann resigned in 2009 after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a staff member. The affair, which he originally denied, led to a 10-day suspension.
He also allowed his state certification to expire while he was employed with the district. He failed to fulfill guidelines to renew the certification as required by state law. His certification was reinstated in 2008.
He now comes into a district that has had its share of leadership issues in recent years.
Former Superintendent Steve Baule and other district officials were criticized for not involving parents in crucial decisions, such as closing South Elementary School in 2007. Residents whose children were in the special education program at Manning Elementary School also expressed concerns over why they were never informed the occupational therapist was on medical leave.
In addition, district officials came under fire in 2009 for not releasing the superintendent’s contract until instructed to by the Illinois Supreme Court. Baule abruptly resigned in 2010.
District 201 School Board President Marie Charlton was the only member who voted against hiring Baldermann for the Westmont High School position. Charlton has not publicly said why she cast a dissenting vote, offering only that she trusts the process and hopes the board got it right.
But Charlton has long been an advocate for openness and ethical leadership at District 201. She was a member of an organization called A Better 201 before joining the School Board, a parents group that raised questions over various district decisions. Charlton has a history of keeping her eye on district operations and speaking out when things don’t look right.
District 201 made an interesting decision in hiring Baldermann, opting to ignore his past mistakes in favor of a results-oriented academic administrator. We offer our support to Baldermann, but we ask that he keeps two important things in mind:
1) Second chances only come once.
2) Your contract is for one year.