Accelify Blog

Special Ed Chief Wasn’t Certified

February 19, 2010

A former special education director who recently left her job in Huntley Unit District 158 for unexplained reasons did not have a state-issued certificate that would have qualified her to serve in the position, state records show.

A review of public records shows that Cheryl Kalkirtz, former special services director in District 158, does not have a special education director endorsement from the Illinois State Board of Education.

District 158 Superintendent John Burkey did not comment on whether the certification issue prompted Kalkirtz’s exit only seven months after she was hired, but he did say the certificate is required.

"The director of special education does have to have the director endorsement," Burkey said. "We would only hire someone if we believed they had those qualifications."

Kalkirtz did not return a call seeking comment on Wednesday but previously declined to talk about the circumstances of

her departure.

Burkey declined to discuss whether Kalkirtz’s endorsement was pending when she was hired. But he did say District 158 sometimes hires employees who have completed their coursework but haven’t received their official paperwork — for example, new teachers who have just graduated from college.

Calling the practice typical for Illinois public schools, Burkey said, "If you didn’t do that, you could never hire anybody who just graduated from school."

The district’s patience, however, is not infinite.

"If there is evidence that (a required) class won’t be completed before the year is out, then we would have to make arrangements to put them in another position or release them," District 158 Human Resources Director Lauren Smith said.

The Illinois State Board of Education confirmed that Kalkirtz or anyone in her former position would have to have a special education director endorsement.

"The district cannot lawfully employ someone in this position who does not have this certificate," state board spokeswoman Mary Fergus said.

Since Kalkirtz’s departure, Burkey has tapped Assistant Special Services Director Karen Aylward to serve as interim direc tor — although Aylward also lacks the necessary endorsement, according to state records and by her own admission.

Although Aylward will essentially be performing the duties of a special education director, Burkey will not ask the board to formally confirm her as interim director just yet.

"Our intent is to formally make her the interim special education director," Burkey said. "We will not do that until she formally has the endorsement."

Aylward said at a meeting with parents last week that her endorsement is pending.