Manhattan School District Names Interim Superintendent

MSD114

 

By Stephanie Irvine

Manhattan School District 114 has named Dr. Ron Pacheco as the interim superintendent following the abrupt resignations of Superintendent Russell “Rusty” Ragon and Christine Ruddy, Director of Human Resources, Professional Development and Communication.

Vince Perillo will take over as Manhattan Junior High Principal, previously the assistant principal, and Gina Burlison was named assistant principal. A replacement for Ruddy has not yet been made. The decisions were finalized and announced at a special school board meeting held on Thursday, Feb. 22.

The news comes after parents and guardians of students in Manhattan School District 114 received an email on the evening of Saturday, Feb. 17, notifying them of the immediate resignation of both Ragon and Ruddy.

In the brief message to families, the school board thanked both Ragon and Ruddy for their service. Only “personal reasons” were cited as the reasoning for their departure. No other comments have been made regarding the resignations.

“As a board, we are working to appoint an interim and will update you as we proceed into this process,” the statement read. “During this time, we thank you for your support while we focus on our next steps.” Parents and guardians were instructed in the email to reach out to their principal should any need arise.

Shortly after the email was sent out, hundreds flocked to social media to speculate the reasons why the administrators left, yet none had concrete evidence to back up any claims.

Both the Ragon and Ruddy were well-liked and respected in the community.

Ragon started with the school district in July 2013. Ruddy began working for the district in June of 2022 as the Director of Human Resources. Previously, Ruddy worked as the assistant principal for Bolingbrook High School from June 2016 until starting at Manhattan School District.

In 2019, Ruddy was named the Three Rivers Assistant Principal of the Year by the Illinois Principals Association.

In the week prior to the resignations, the school district faced intense criticism from parents over a bulletin board that featured various rainbow hearts and messaging that read “open hearts” and “open minds.” The district had to move its February 14 meeting to Wilson Creek grade school to accommodate the large crowd they were anticipating and that subsequently showed up.

At that meeting, Ragon read a district policy that requires bulletin boards to only include curriculum-related themes. Ruddy provided the board with the collective feedback the district had received.

After tis story was posted, a reader reached out to Farmers Weekly Review to clarify that the “Opens Hearts Open Minds” Bulletin Board at Wilson Creek contained only one rainbow heart. It also contained various other colored hearts and a “trans flag” heart, the reader said.

There is currently no indication whether the resignations and the bulletin board policy are related.

This is a developing story. Please check back for details.

Stephanie Irvine is a freelance reporter.

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