DHS principal resigns; D-428 board modifies 1-to-1 tech plan

DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 Superintendent Doug Moeller will remain interim principal of DeKalb High School for the remainder of the school year after the district board unanimously approved a resignation agreement with former Principal Tamra Ropeter.

Ropeter was placed on paid administrative leave after a controversial Black History Month assembly put on by the high school’s Black Student Union on Feb. 24. Ropeter was out the next day. At the time, Moeller told parents it was because of a scheduled medical absence.

She was officially put on leave Feb. 26, which is when Moeller sent out a letter to parents informing them that Ropeter would be out for the rest of the year to address “personal matters.”

Ropeter will be paid according to her $125,000 salary through June 30, which is when her contract was set to end. The separation agreement said Ropeter was put on leave because of parental concerns about the assembly.

Ropeter did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. The board recognized the DHS Forensics team Tuesday, including Ariel Williams, who took second place in the state competition for the same piece she performed at the assembly. Moeller said Ropeter didn’t resign because of the assembly.

“There were other issues involved besides the BSU assembly,” Moeller said. “There were some seriously personal issues. There was a lot more to it.”

Moeller added that although he personally didn’t find the portion of the assembly he saw as offensive, the backlash could have been handled better.

“There are some things that maybe weren’t handled appropriately, but that didn’t necessarily lead to her resignation,” he said. “There were a lot of personal issues that we can’t discuss.”

The school district also took action Tuesday on modifying the one-to-one technology rollout plan, which aims to put Chromebooks and tech devices in the hands of District 428 students. The plan comes with a multimillion-dollar price tag, however, and board members have voiced concern about whether or not the district has the money to fully implement the plan.

The modified plan means students in grades three, 11 and 12 will receive Chromebooks next school year, and kindergartners, first- and second-graders won’t be included in the program unless the district’s financial situation changes. The district projects ending up in a $1.7 million deficit for the 2016-17 school year, even with the modified plan.

The last time the district board met, members Rick Smith and Fred Davis both said they weren’t in favor of the district spending more money on the technology initiative. Davis said he could support the modified plan if absolutely necessary, and Smith said he didn’t want to spend an extra penny.

Both Smith and Davis were absent at Tuesday’s meeting. The board unanimously approved the modified plan.

Officials have implemented other cost-saving measures, said Andrea Gorla, the district’s superintendent of business and finance. In 2016-17, the copier won’t be replaced at the high school, which will save $95,000. The district also raised student registration rates by $20, which is estimated to bring in about $49,000 annually. Moving forward, the district will budget $50,000 for copier replacements. Officials also removed $16,000 from the elementary school budget that would have gone to building improvements.

Board President Victoria Newport said she felt confident about the modified technology plan.

“It’s a great way to go ahead and get more grade levels in one-to-one,” she said. “But also keep an eye on the financial side. In the high school especially, it really levels the playing field so much.”