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DeKalb graduation switched back to July 11 drive-thru ceremony

Also: school board selects pair of interim superintendents

DeKALB – In an easy vote with minimal discussion, the DeKalb District 428 school board unanimously approved Ray Lechner and Griff Powell as interim superintendents on June 16.

They’ll replace Jamie Craven, who leaves to take over Peru Elementary District 125 on June 30.

The board, in a much longer discussion, also elected to change its graduation date back to July 11 for a drive-thru ceremony after voting in May to hold it Aug. 1 in hopes of an in-person ceremony at Northern Illinois University’s Convocation Center.

But Superintendent Jamie Craven said NIU officials told him graduation plans were unlikely, so the board discussed moving it back to the initial date of July, passing it by a 5-1 vote with one abstention, Jeromy Olson. David Seymour voted against it but did not provide comment.

“An in-person graduation, in [NIU’s] words, was extremely unlikely,” Craven said. “We wanted to bring back to the board the possibility of moving the drive-thru graduation back to DeKalb High at the proposed July 11 date.”

James Horne, DeKalb High School principal, said the ceremony is likely to be split over two days because they’ve learned from other districts that it takes longer than expected.

“It works but it takes longer than you think,” Horne said. “We did pilot this slightly with our students who left early from the military. It was a very small number but very nice. We’re providing them with a moment in a challenging time.”

Olson, a father of two seniors and a driving force behind moving the date to Aug. 1, expressed indignation at the new date and abstained from the vote. Olson said changing the date up again with “less than a month’s notice,” would burden families, like his, who had made plans to attend.

Both Horne and Craven said most of the feedback they had heard from students and parents regarding the Aug. 1 date is that it was too late, interfering with college plans and how some students and families just wanted to get it over with.

Valerie Pena-Hernandez, who also has a senior in the district, said she was OK for moving it back but was open to different takes. Horne detailed a plan for traffic.

“We’ve been in contact with the church we share a road with and they are not holding any in-person services until at least September,” Horne said. “So that we can control. We’ll jam up traffic onto Dresser so we’re going to have to contact the police as well.”

Superintendent selections

Lechner and Powell will serve in an interim capacity together from July 1 through June 30, 2021, and be paid $1,000 a day. Neither will receive benefits.

Powell said during the meeting he rejected an offer from the district that originally paid for expenses.

“You should not do that for an interim,” Powell said. “Paying for a cell phone or whatever, it’s not worth it to you and this organization.”

According to district documents, the pay would not exceed 120 days for a total of $120,000 each, and the duo will not receive any retirement pay from District 428. The savings is expected to be $27,000 from Craven’s pay over the same time frame.

Powell said he’s excited to get started.

“This is a district with a good reputation for forward thinking,” Powell said. “I’ve met with most of the cabinet and I think we’re in a solid place to move forward.”

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