Baldermann starts out at top in Union SD 81
By Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org June 5, 2012 9:24PM
New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann, who is taking over as the new superintendent in Union School District, talks about his new job at his home in New Lenox, Illinois, Tuesday, June 5, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:46AM
As he takes the superintendent’s reins in Union School District 81, New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann knows the challenges that lie ahead and welcomes them.
He got down to business immediately on Monday morning, two days after he was hired under a three-year contract at $127,000 a year to run the one-school district.
“I did not take this job for the money but for the challenge,” Baldermann said. “I really think I can make a positive difference.”
District 81 has had its share of controversy recently — mainly involving nepotism and the school board president circumventing the board on many decisions, which has led to the board being divided on several issues. The school’s 110 students have tested below state average despite small class sizes.
Baldermann, 46, has never held a full-time job in education, serving only as a substitute teacher, but believes he can right the ship and make it a school in which the community can be proud.
His previous roles as Chicago Ridge police chief, New Lenox trustee and New Lenox District 122 school board president have not been without controversy.
He has dealt with political chicanery, school deficits, divided boards and his own bit of nepotism (wife Megan was a principal when Baldermann was elected to the District 122 board). He recently created a stir when he called on New Lenox residents to boycott local gas stations because he felt their prices were too high.
He knows that his hiring has raised more than a few eyebrows in the district and that at least two school board members opposed it. Some members also said board president John LaRocca failed to consult them on selecting Baldermann, who was not among the board’s top three candidates, two of whom turned down the job.
“It could have been handled better,” Baldermann said. “I think I can help with that. Everything I do is aboveboard. I don’t get involved in something unless I’m passionate about it.”
He said he has prepared for his new career by earning a superintendent’s certificate, and will rely, as he has before, on a team approach and ethical standards.
“No one can make me do anything I don’t want to do,” he said. “I don’t need any job that bad. You may not agree with me, but you will know where I stand on an issue.”
Baldermann said his first order of business will be to negotiate a new contract with teachers. He met with them on Monday and plans to talk with all of them to find out what they need to succeed, he said.
He also wants to personally meet every parent before the next school year begins, something feasible in such a tiny district. And he intends to review every employee, create job descriptions for all positions and “make sure everyone is held accountable,” he said.
“You can’t do that if you don’t get to know them. One-on-one time is crucial,” Baldermann said.
With a bright financial future and offering small class sizes, Union School can become a “selling point” for the community, he said.
“When I retired from the police department, my goal was to make education my second career,” he said. “This job makes perfect sense, and it’s close to home.”