Kankakee High School -1

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include that a special board meeting will be held Tuesday, July 20, at Lincoln Cultural Center. Executive session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and a regular meeting is set for 7 p.m.

KANKAKEE — The termination of a Kankakee School District 111 staff member was tabled after the staff member and another district employee voiced their opposition to the decision during Monday’s Kankakee School Board meeting.

Board members voted 4-3 to remove the termination of Gloria Kennedy from the consent agenda and move it to the agenda for the next board meeting.

Members Mary Archie, Jess Gathing, Tracy Verrett and Darrell Williams voted to table the item, and members Christopher Bohlen, Deb Johnston and Barbara Wells voted against the motion to table the item.

According to board documents, Kennedy is a project manager for R3 Grant/Youth Empowerment Program at King Middle School.

The reasons for her termination listed in board documents are “failure to complete assigned tasks,” “failure to meet deadlines” and “insubordination.”

Kennedy addressed the board during the public comment section of Monday’s meeting, alleging an unhealthy work environment was created by her supervisor, Shameka Fountain, the district’s new assistant superintendent of human resources.

“Tonight I am asking that she be removed, asking the board to consider her employment with the district and how it affects future staff,” Kennedy said.

Fountain, who previously was the principal of King Middle School, was promoted to the human resources position starting July 1. She took the place of Kathleen “Sissy” O’Connor, who was transferred to another position within the district starting July 1.

O’Connor is now an innovation administrator, a new position created using federal COVID-19 funds to address learning loss. She is scheduled to retire at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

Two other administrators who are also set to retire after next school year were named innovation administrators as well — former Edison Primary School Principal Cheryl O’Leary and former Kennedy Middle School Principal Cynthia Veronda.

Kennedy said that upon her return to work in May, she was asked to complete tasks that were not in her job description. The tasks were related to grant management, she said.

Kennedy said the position she was hired for was to coordinate and manage community projects, among other duties.

“I took the job because of the fact that I love my community,” Kennedy said. “I love working for and with my community.”

Kennedy also said she came to the board when a previous administrator made a list of “trustworthy” and “untrustworthy” staff members; she said she continued to work despite the issue never being addressed.

“I shouldn’t be asked to be the bigger person all of the time,” Kennedy said. “I think everyone should take the turn to accept the responsibilities in the things that we do. I don’t feel like my current supervisor is doing that.”

Superintendent Genevra Walters told the Daily Journal that the issue of the list in question was addressed by the board in closed session, as “all personnel matters are addressed that way.”

Walters said the issue occurred in 2016 involving a principal who was later terminated and an assistant superintendent who retired the next year.

Robert Ellington-Snipes, a paraprofessional for the district who is also a Kankakee County Board member, asked the school board during public comment Monday to reconsider Kennedy’s termination.

“I would ask you on a professional courtesy that you reconsider, if you have not already, to take that termination out, set it aside, and let’s look at how we can make things work,” he said.

Ellington-Snipes spoke to Kennedy’s professionalism as a member of Kankakee County Community Services Inc. and the African-American Improvement Association. He is president of both groups.

Ellington-Snipes also spoke to Kennedy’s past service as an alderwoman for the City of Kankakee.

He suggested that Kennedy be considered for employment in another area within the school district if things cannot be worked out for her current position.

“Without any hesitancy, I know her work record, what she does, how she is committed to doing things… [Her termination] is going to set a bad taste in this community and would be a step in the wrong direction.”

At the end of the Monday meeting, board members scheduled a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. July 20 to “conclude some business we discussed in closed session,” Board President Barbara Wells said.

The special board meeting will be in the auditorium at Lincoln Cultural Center. An executive session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., with a regular meeting to follow at 7 p.m.  The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 26 at Kankakee High School.

Reporter

Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools. She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.