Baker will not return to D86 next year
Board votes not to extend contract for assistant superintendent amidst science controversy
Last updated 1/15/2020 at 3:56pm | View PDF
Carol Baker, who has served as assistant superintendent for academics/chief academic officer in District 86 since Aug. 1, 2018, will be out of a job on June 30.
The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board voted unanimously last week not to renew her contract, for reasons other than a reduction in staff, board President Nancy Pollak said in her report after the Jan. 9 vote.
“It’s a personnel matter,” Pollak said. “We are not at liberty to provide any information additionally above and beyond what is included in the resolution.
“Our decision regarding Dr. Baker will not alter or impact the curriculum alignment efforts that have and will continue to be led by our teachers, department chairs, principals and assistant principals for curriculum and instruction. This includes the development and implementation of our new science sequences,” she added, noting that an update on that work will be presented at the Thursday, Jan. 23, board meeting.
Baker and other district officials have come under fire recently for a plan to create a new science sequence at Hinsdale Central that would enroll freshmen in a physics course, followed by chemistry sophomore year and biology junior year. A version of the plan, often referred to as “physics first,” is in place at Hinsdale South, and it was scheduled to be introduced at Hinsdale Central this fall. In December, Superintendent Tammy Prentiss announced the rollout would be slowed at Central, pointing to the administrative team’s “ineffective job” of communicating about the topic.
One of the critics of the plan, Linda Burke of Hinsdale, said letting Baker go does nothing to address the substance of the problem.
“We have a problem science curriculum and it’s not a communication problem,” she said during public comment. “And the ritual sacrifice of one administrator will not make physics in the universe for all in any way OK, nor will it ever be accepted by this highly educated and STEM-conscious community.”
Yvonne Mayer of Burr Ridge requested board members “do the job they were elected to do” and start a search for two new administrators — one to replace Baker and one to replace Superintendent Tammy Prentiss. She suggested Prentiss doesn’t have the experience to lead the district and questioned why the superitendent never followed up on a board request for more information on a multi-strand science sequence discussed at a Jan. 7, 2019, meeting.
“It’s not too late to do the right thing,” Mayer told board members. “The only question is, will you?”
Other speakers did not agree with the decision to let Baker go.
Alan Hruby of Burr Ridge said a few minor adjustments could turn the proposed PCB sequence into a model for other districts. He praised Baker for identifying inequities in the curriculums at the two high schools.
“Make no mistake. That is what is at the root of the complaint against her tonight — the prosecution of a whistle blower,” he said. “You should not be meeting tonight to discuss Dr. Baker’s termination. You should be meeting to discuss how large of a bonus to award her.”
Adolph Galinski, father of three with one at South, said objectors have overlooked the benefit of offering AP Physics CM in the new science sequence, which would be recognized by engineering schools.
“Dr. Baker worked to uncover and fix curriculum problems like this in District 86. Not renewing her contract is a huge mistake,” Galinski said.
Michele Berg of Willowbrook wondered how the board plans to advance the curriculum alignment process without a key administrator.
“You’re essentially firing the president in the middle of the war,” she said. “That’s the only analogy I have to compare it to right now.”