Speakers say time for healing at H-F High starts now

  Audience members applaud comments by District 233 
  school board members during a well-attended meeting 
  Tuesday, April 18.
(Photo by Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
 

An audience of about 150 people gave applause to speakers who admonished those that have caused divisions within the Homewood-Flossmoor High School community the past 10 months and said now is the time for healing.

 
At the Tuesday, April 18, board meeting, Don Goens, a 30-year Flossmoor resident, told the crowd, “I’m frankly appalled at the comments and things that I’ve heard go on in this community over the last year. It distresses me that this would be going on in my community.” He received a round of applause.

After the board released Ryan Pitcock from his principal’s position in June 2016, the community was in an uproar. School board meetings drew large crowds as residents questioned many board actions and policies.  
 
A rumor started two weeks ago that the outgoing school board would renew Superintendent Von Mansfield’s contract. The item was never on the April 18 board agenda, according to board members, but a petition circulated asking the board not to act, and local attorney Dean Armstrong threatened to sue the board if it did.
 
Armstrong addressed the board in the public comment section. He was applauded when he said, “I want to do what I can to let the healing process begin” as he thanked Gerald Pauling, Andy Lindstrom and Richard Lites for their service as they leave the board after failing to win re-election.
 
“It is my sincere hope that as a final act of dedication and commitment and devotion to H-F High School that you do all that you can to mend the wounds that have divided this community over the last (10) months,” Armstrong said. “I think if you put your tremendous talents toward that endeavor we can all work together to bring the community back together. We can all, at last, let the healing process begin.”

Board member Debbie Berman had particularly strong words about the lawsuit threat, calling it “reprehensible, and it’s also very dangerous to this community.” The audience gave her loud applause.  
 
“This needs to stop,” she stressed. “We can have civilized discourse and disagreements and shake hands and walk out the door. We cannot act as bullies and intimidators.”
 
Lindstrom said “goofy things on social media” left him “heart broken. To see people make negative remarks about two of the finest board members I ever had the pleasure to work with.”
 
“You’ve got to ask who’s starting these rumors.  Maybe it’s the Russians,” Berman said to laughter. 
 
“Seriously, we really need to move forward as a community. We have a big job ahead of us. We have a new principal starting (July 1). We owe it to (Dr. Jerry Anderson), and the 3,000 children who go to this school to make sure she succeeds,” Berman said to more applause.
 
Board members said they are looking forward to working with newly elected members Steve Anderson, Annette Bannon and Beth Larocca who will take their seats May 1.

Lites, who is the longest serving member of the board, said he had hoped to win re-election “but the good Lord had other plans. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving on this board the last 20 years.”
 
“We have always attracted some of the most wonderful people who simply want to do one thing and serve on this board without a single agenda,” he said. “Just to serve on the board, to make certain this high school and this community maintains itself through very trying times.”
 
“Everybody brings something to the table, and we will work together as hard as we can to make this the best place. When you walk through the doors you will know it,” said board member Jodie Scariano.
 

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A great community deserves a great newspaper. The HF Chronicle was created in June 2014 as an online publication. In December 2015 we began monthly print publication, too. Our mission is to chronicle the life of our community — news by, for, and about the people of Homewood and Flossmoor, Illinois.

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