For more than 2½ hours, Valley View School District Superintendent James Mitchem and the board of education listened to public comments and then it came time for action.
And, after the board voted 5-2 to accept Bolingbrook High School Principal Michael White’s resignation, president Steven Quigley answered the public outcry.
“We will not go backward,” Quigley said on Monday night near the conclussion of a meeting that drew an overflow crowd that filled the auditorium at Lukancic Middle School in Romeoville and spilled into the cafeteria.
Citizens lined up to address the board, most in an orderly fashion. Many voiced their support for White and painted a picture of a man who has created a safe learning environment during his 1½ years on the job at Bolingbrook. A few said he has gone too far with discipline and called him a bully.
Others spoke of a clear divide that runs deep within the district and a dysfunctionality that prevents the district from being all that it can be and then came the first public remarks from White.
“My decision (to resign) was that I felt that I was limited in my ability to do my job as a building principal,” he said. “That means when curriculum is not a part of my daily routine I’m not doing the full job that is required of me.
“I felt I had reached the limits of what I could do at Bolingbrook High School. So, I submitted my resignation after many, many, many conversations. Don’t think this was just a one-time deal. I decided it was time for me to move on as a result of the fact I couldn’t get senior leadership to make some decisions that would help me do my job.”
White said he met with members of the Valley View School District administration several times and shared his concerns, the situation reaching a boiling point over the winter break period from school.
“Those concerns were not met—many of them that were discussed here (during the comments session of the board meeting),” he said.
White turned emotional when asked how he felt about the public display of support from so many in the crowd.
“As a building principal or administrator or educator, you can’t ask for a more rewarding thing than that of people seeing the impact you’ve had on them, their kids, the community,” he said. “So, I feel pleased and proud and humbled by what they shared tonight.”
White said he will finish the school year and do his job just like he’s always done it—no matter the hard feelings that have surfaced.
“I’ve been doing this for a year-and-a-half here; I will behave no differently, putting in the time, the effort and the care for the kids, spending the individual time with them, the after-school stuff,” he said. “Everything that I’m allowed to do within the limits I’m given, I’ll do. Absolutely.”
Tears were shed when the news of the board’s decision to accept his resignation was made clear to all those in the crowd—Quigley explaining the result of a vote on a consolidated action report for certified, classified and administrative personnel.
“If the board decides to accept Mr. White’s resignation, I just want to thank him for all he’s done to change Bolingbrook High School for the better,” said Amber Williamson, a freshman at the school.
“This whole thing—pitting Mr. Mitchem or the school board against Mr. White—is crazy,” said Thomas Weathers, a security officer at the high school and the father of two Valley View School District students. “Of course, great minds have their own ideas of how they want to do things. But I’m just saying, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’
“This is the first time this community has come out in force for one idea or another. So, that means something good is being done and something the community thinks is good is being threatened. So, let’s sit back, take some time and readdress the things.
“If we’re going in the right direction, give the man what he wants—some of what he wants—and if he doesn’t do it right, then you get rid of him. But let him be the principal if that’s all he’s asking for. What’s so bad, what’s holding up this issue, is that it’s pitting people against each other. And that’s not what this is about. It’s the kids.”