By Bob Skolnik
Sandy Kresen has worked for Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 for most of her adult life. She began as a library aide at George Washington School and then moved to Costello School when Washington became a middle school.
In addition to her library aide duties, nearly 20 years ago she began managing the district's before- and after-school childcare programs and also ran the district's camps during the summer, spring and winter breaks.
But late on the afternoon of May 26, just a few hours before a school board meeting, Kresen received a phone call from Superintendent Kristopher Rivera telling her that he was recommending that she would be laid off.
At the school board meeting that night, the school board voted by the familiar 4 to 3 margin to lay off Kresen and 16 other aides.
"I'm shocked and devastated and heartbroken," Kresen told the Landmark the day after the board meeting. "I'm in shock. It's so hurtful."
Kresen said she had no idea that her job was in danger. Kresen, 61, has worked for District 103 for 29 years and was only couple of years away from retirement.
"I truly loved my job," Kresen said. "I loved going to work."
Kresen was the only library aide laid off. The main reason appears to be that Rivera apparently plans to outsource or eliminate the before- and after-school care program.
During the board meeting, Rivera also said Kresen's relatively high salary was a factor in the layoff. Kresen made $52,000 this year, according to District 103 Human Resources Director Brian Towne.
"It's embarrassing after 30 years to be making what I make," Kresen said.
Because of her management responsibilities, Kresen was not part of the aides' union.
"With my position of doing the childcare, the camps and the library, I've never been able to be union," Kresen said. "But I know people who were union who were let go, so I don't think that would have helped any."
Kresen said that she never got involved in school board politics.
"I keep my nose out of everything and do my job," Kresen said.
Board members Sharon Anderson, Marge Hubacek, and Shannon Johnson voted against the layoffs.
Hubacek has known Kresen for more than 20 years, dating back to when Hubacek was a library aide at Home School in Stickney.
"She's a great person, she's a hard worker. I think, most of all, she really loves the kids and the district," Hubacek said. "When she took over that before and after care and the camps she just did a phenomenal job. It's a shame what they're doing."
Voting in favor of the layoffs were board members Vito Campanile, Olivia Quintero, Winfred Rodriquez, and board President Jorge Torres.
Along with Kresen, all six of the district's health aides and 10 instructional aides were laid off, a little more than 25 percent of the district's total of 60 aides.
During the meeting Rivera said the health aides were laid off because when schools reopen the district might have to have a certified nurse at each school instead of an uncertified health aide.
"They are very, very restricted," Rivera said of the health aides. "They cannot do certain things in the health office."
Among those laid off were longtime Lincoln School health aide Roberta Lezon.
"She does a lot more than just putting Band-Aids on," said Krystal Steiner, a former president of the Lincoln School PTA. "She does all the records stuff. Kids need a safe place to go when they get hurt. I can't see that hiring an LPN or an RN from an agency, which is what I understood is their plan. It's going to be a different person every day."
Instructional aides often work with special needs students, often on a one-on-one basis. Rivera said it is possible that next year one aide will be assigned to work with two students.
The aides, both instructional and health aides, worked the entire school year without a contract after union members voted down an offer recommended by their negotiating team in November. Further negotiations stalled during the pandemic and now appear headed to mediation.
Rivera said that, depending on circumstances, some of the aides could be called back to work in the fall.
"This is a layoff," Rivera said. "If we get notified that these positions are suited for doing certain jobs, we can consider coming back or we can consider options. This gives me flexibility at a time when we don't know where we're going to end up in August."