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District 428 board accepts resignation of Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary School principal

DeKALB – A series of personnel changes, including the resignation of Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary School Principal Brooke Condon, was accepted by the DeKalb School District 428 Board on Tuesday.

Condon had been receiving an $84,249.65 salary, and her resignation was approved on a 4-0 vote. Board President Victoria Newport, board secretary Kerry Mellott and board member Rick Smith were not in attendance.

Brooks Elementary has come under fire during the school year over concerns of student safety voiced by parents and teachers stemming from a number of incidents.

Northern Illinois University senior associate athletic director John Cheney said he and his wife have contemplated removing their children from Brooks Elementary for a private school because of overall discipline issues at the school.

“There are some families who are unable to make that decision financially or because it may require bus routes,” Cheney said. “It’s a significant decision to uproot your kids from their friends and their classes.”

Cheney said his daughter told him about a fight where a desk flipped over, and while he was surprised, his daughter said that sort of thing happens a lot.

“The school environment is much different and ever-evolving, but at the same time, there’s still the basic expectation that when you send kids to school, they’re in a safe and conducive environment,” Cheney said.

In January, DeKalb parent Monica Jefferson posted several pictures of her daughter, who had been injured during a school sledding trip, on Facebook. The pictures showed several abrasions on her daughter’s face, and Jefferson claimed she had not been contacted by the school or the principal about what happened.

However, Jenn Soss, another district parent, said her second-grade daughter also was hurt on the trip and commended Condon, the school nurse and the child’s teacher about keeping her updated about the girl’s condition.

Suzie Anderson, who has been a substitute teacher after her retirement five years ago, spoke during a recent district board meeting about school safety at Brooks. She also said she had to break up a fight between students both this year and last year.

“What I see going on is absolutely outrageous,” Anderson said.

Residency check questions

Although no audience members spoke about Brooks, several members spoke about the status of the student residency investigation that was approved in response to a lawsuit from an anonymous DeKalb taxpayer that claimed that about 1,000 students enrolled within District 428 do not live in the district, which costs taxpayers millions of dollars.

In late April and early May, two community meetings were held for concerned residents to air information about the lawsuit and investigation.

The last public update the board provided was in March when Newport said the investigation was in its third phase, which would wrap up in two to three months. Once the investigation ends, Newport has said that it is the board’s intention to publicly disclose the statistical findings of the investigation.

DeKalb resident David Barrow said he discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request that the lawsuit has cost the district more than $51,000 in legal expenses from Oct. 31 to March 29.

Resident David Becker said he acknowledged the board could not publicly comment on pending litigation, but asked when the investigation would conclude and what legal rights an investigator has to come to a parent or guardian’s front door and start asking questions.

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