The director of special education at Evanston Township High School, on paid administrative leave due to what District 202 termed an “investigation,” will not have her contract renewed at the end of the current school year.
Diona Lewis will continue to be paid her $150,000+ yearly salary through June 30.
She will be the third top ETHS administrator to depart in a year without the district providing any reasons.
Lewis was placed on leave last Oct. 3.
Then, on Feb. 21, the Board of Education approved a “Resolution Authorizing Notice of Dismissal and Non-Renewal of an Administrative Contract.”
However, the administrator’s name was not mentioned publicly in the meeting, nor were any explanations given for the non-renewal.
Following the session, Evanston Now filed a Freedom of Information Act request, and received a D202 document confirming the employee in question is Lewis.
The Non-Renewal vote came almost a year to the day after the board accepted the retirement letter from Chief Human Resources Officer Toya Campbell and the resignation of Assistant HR Director Yolanda Hardy, in February 2022.
Campbell and Hardy had been placed on paid administrative leave in October 2021.
In all three cases, no reasons have been given publicly for the administrative leave nor the departures. Such silence is not unusual in personnel matters.
Also in all three cases, the administrators were paid or are being paid their entire year’s salaries. Covering their time on leave through the end of the academic year, that adds up to being paid more than $400,000 not to work. (ETHS documents also show Campbell received a $116,000 lump sum payment on top of her remaining salary, so the total for all three actually tops $500,000).
Evanston Now has tried unsuccessfully to reach Lewis, Campbell and Hardy.
Campbell and Hardy did send retirement or resignation letters to the district last year.
Campbell, an employee for nearly two decades, said she “truly enjoyed her tenure” at ETHS, and was “proud of the contributions” she had made.
Hardy said “it was a great honor” to serve the district.
There was no letter from Lewis among the documents received by Evanston Now from District 202.
During the Feb. 21 meeting where Lewis’ contract was non-renewed, two Evanston residents, both Black women, questioned the departure of three Black, female administrators in such a short period of time.
Marion Macbeth, a former district employee, asked the board “when does it all end?”, claiming she had faced discrimination during her 33 years at ETHS.
And then, a bombshell. Macbeth said that in the Lewis case, she “understand[s]” that there is “to be a pending discriminatory charge with the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission].”
What Macbeth did not mention, however, is that she is Diona Lewis’ mother.
When contacted by Evanston Now, Macbeth said that because of her own long tenure at the high school, “they know me,” so it was not ncessary to state the mother-daughter connection.
“I wanted it to be about the about the history of issues at the high school,” she added, and not detract from that focus by bringing in a family relationship.
Macbeth also told Evanston Now that “the board just rubber stamps what the administration says,” and that Lewis “has done nothing wrong.”
“They have damaged her reputation,” Macbeth said regarding the district.
The other speaker at the meeting, Melissa Denton, said “representation matters.”
Both Denton and McBeth called for appointment of an outside investigator, who, in Macbeth’s words, would “assess what the problem is and find a real solution.”
Despite those comments suggesting racial issues, the school board’s decision to non-renew Lewis was unanimous, including the votes of the two Black, female board members present that night.
I worked with Diona Lewis as a Social Worker in Round Lake. I found her to be very pro student. She was honest and reliable. I could always call on her when I needed her. She was also hard working. I remember that she was always respectful to parents and staff. I enjoyed working with her and always thought she was an asset to our district.
As a parent of a student with an IEP she was awful and in talking to other parents of students with IEP’s we are thankful she is gone. Good riddance, Dr. Diona Lewis (she brings up her title at EVERY IEP meeting). Compensating her since October along with the other two is shameful, it doesn’t take 5 months to complete and investigation while paying salaries with taxpayers money. Shocked that “mommy” had the gall to speak to the board in this manner, maybe Dr. Lewis should have done her job. ETHS is on quite the decline.
That’s a lot of money to be wasted to pay people not to work. ETHS already has a bloated administration compared to surrounding districts. Just this week they added another $150k plus admin position of Director of Truancy and Residency. Meanwhile student performance keeps on declining. Good work if you can get it.
@willie, the article shows too many confuse a government-mandated jobs program with education, and there is no accountability or commitment to excellence. We need school choice and a student/family-first approach to education.
The districts reasoning for discharge is concerning. In comparison to the white counterparts, the POC employees are being discharged within this district at a disproportionate rate. It appears that the white administrators were frustrated at the placement of a black female in this position of leadership and did everything to get her out. The most unfortunate part is that the students will suffer the most. In special education, the student population is comprised largely of black and brown students, all of whom are currently been served by an all white team of special education administrators who are disconnected from the students they claim to serve. Lewis was able to relate to the students and successfully meet their needs. She made considerable strides during her tenure and this whole predicament is unfortunate and completely unacceptable.
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