D86 struggles to choose new president

Two and a half hours and 10 votes.

That’s how long it took the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board to elect a new president Monday night.

Prior to officer elections, the four new board members elected April 6 were sworn in — Peggy James, Debbie Levinthal, Terri Walker and Jeff Waters.

The first order of business for the new board was to elect officers. Three were nominated to serve as president. Cynthia Hanson nominated Kathleen Hirsman; James proposed her running mate, Waters; and Levinthal recommended her running mate, Walker. A candidate needed support from a majority of the board — or four votes — to win the office.

No one was able to earn more than three votes in the first round. Hirsman earned three (herself, Hanson and Erik Held) and Waters and Walker receiving two each (themselves and their nominators).

A second attempt had the same results.

As did seven more rounds of voting. In between votes, board members made comments about the individuals they were supporting and why. Hirsman’s supporters focused on her experience, while the Waters and Walker supporters pointed to a desire for change on the part of voters who elected them.

Held, who was serving as president pro tem, offered lengthy comments between votes, focused primarily on the learning curve for new board members and the time commitment of serving as president.

Hirsman spoke out in frustration after the sixth vote.

“I think this is just a ridiculous exercise,” she said. “Let me be entirely candid. The four of you were elected a month ago. You came onto this board with a majority of four. You control the decision on who is going to be president if you can agree amongst yourselves.

“We are three. You are four. This is not our responsibility. This is your responsibility,” she added.

Waters and Levinthal took issue with that opinion. Levinthal said she was approaching her vote as an individual board member, not as part of a four-person voting block.

“There are four of us and that is a majority, but there are seven of us that need to elect a president,” Levinthal said.

After the ninth vote, Hirsman withdrew her name from consideration.

“We are not getting anywhere and this is not a good way to start out,” she said. “You have insisted that a new board member be president. I’m not going to make that decision for you.”

She offered to devote whatever time is necessary to help the new president get up to speed.

“I will be the example of someone who is not going to be entrenched,” she said.

In the 10th round of voting, Waters received three yes votes, with Held joining him and James.

Walker earned the requisite four votes — herself, Levinthal, Hanson and James, who previously had supported Waters. Hirsman abstained from both votes.

The selection of vice president initially looked like it might lead to a similar stalemate, with James, Hirsman and Levinthal nominated for the office. Levinthal withdrew her name and Hirsman won with four votes. James then was selected secretary of the board with four votes.

Former board member and president Kay Gallo, one of two audience members to stay until the end of the meeting, congratulated the group.

“You guys did a tremendous job this evening,” she said. “I’m really happy on how this is going.”

The board also selected members and chairmen for the finance and facilities committee and will fill the remaining committee and other open positions when it meets next on May 13.

D181 names new officers

The four board members elected April 6 — Bill Cotter, Margie Kleber, Michael Martin and Grace Shin — took the oath of office at the April 28 reorganization meeting of the Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 Board.

The new board also elected officers. Kleber will continue to serve as president. Sinead Duffy will be vice president and Cotter will serve as secretary.