Urbana Schools Administrator Charged With Felony Eavesdropping
The Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Instruction for Urbana School District 116, Samuel Byndom, has been charged with felony eavesdropping for allegedly trying to bug a closed door meeting of the Urbana Board of Education, the Champaign County State’s Attorney announced Thursday.
The investigation was triggered by a school district employee who found an emailed order confirmation for a voice activated recorder pen from a company called “SpyGuy” on a district computer, according to a press release from the state’s attorney’s office. The device was allegedly overnighted to Byndom’s home.
Prior to their Oct. 28 closed session meeting, school board members searched the meeting room and found a pen that matched the description in the email, the release states. The device was removed from the room prior to the start of the meeting.
The release goes on to state that Byndom, 35, allegedly expressed concern about not being able to find his “memo pen."
On Oct. 30, two days after the meeting, Urbana police executed a search warrant at the administrator’s home and allegedly found packaging and cords for the device.
District 116 Superintendent Don Owen announced in a statement Oct. 31 that Byndom had been placed on leave, but did not provide any explanation as to why.
According to the state’s attorney’s office, Byndum will be summoned to appear in court on Nov. 29.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to probation or up to three years in prison, according to the release.
An emailed statement from the District 116 administration and the Urbana Board of Education stated that they were “disheartened” by the announcement of the charge against Byndom. The district stated that they’re fully cooperating with investigators.
“The School District does not comment on specific personnel issues or ongoing investigations and would refer all questions to the Champaign County State's Attorney's office,” the statement read.
Byndom was first hired by the district in 2013 as director of the Urbana Adult Education Center. He replaced Jennifer Ivory-Tatum as Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Instruction for the district in May 2017.
Byndom has also been a strong proponent of the district’s new — and controversial — restorative-based discipline model.
The announcement of the charge pending against Byndom comes during a tumultuous period for District 116, including continued pushback against the new discipline initiative and a board requested audit report that highlights significant problems with the district’s hiring practices, and which targeted positions held mostly by people of color.