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Fri April 8, 2011
Rockford's school chief Sheffield resigns
By Susan Stephens
Rockford, IL – Rockford's school superintendent is resigning. LaVonne Sheffield announced Thursday she will be out by the end of the month. So change is afoot in the Rockford School District. On Tuesday, voters chose newcomers over incumbents in School Board races. And now, the woman in charge of the district is saying goodbye two years before her contract ends. In an emailed message to the community, Superintendent LaVonne Sheffield said she was hired as a "change agent" for the district: now she feels the district is no longer "moving forward." She says some of the biggest challenges ahead for Rockford Schools include racial imbalances in achievement and discipline, as well as all-over financial uncertainty.
Sheffield has been criticized for her leadership style, especially during the recent round of school closings and program cuts. The head of the Rockford teacher's union, Molly Phalen, calls Sheffield's upcoming departure "a positive development" that offers the "opportunity to build a better school district."
Sheffield's resignation agreement goes to the school board for approval next Tuesday. The board will also begin discussions on how to start the search for the district's next superintendent.
Meanwhile, Sheffield is facing a defamation lawsuit that was filed Thursday by an education researcher. Louisiana-based Noel Hammatt has been speaking out against Sheffield's policies at recent meetings in Rockford. He's suing her in Winnebago County for 50-thousand dollars for comments she made at a school board meeting. She accused him of distorting data and "believing minority students aren't as bright."