Votes highlight division on D86 board

A series of 4-3 votes on normally routine business at the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board meeting July 28 revealed the division that persists between the first-term board members and the rest of the board.

The most significant of the votes involved a 1.4-percent increase for Superintendent Tammy Prentiss, bringing her salary to $264,258 for the 2022-23 school year.

Board members Jeff Waters called for the item to be pulled from the consent agenda.

“I’m not sure how much we can discuss without being in closed,” he said. “This particular item is asking us to approve a salary and this measure ... is something I’m not prepared to do. The measure’s request does not align with my confidence in the superintendent.”

He and board members Debbie Levinthal and Peggy James voted against the salary increase, with Cynthia Hanson, Erik Held, Kathleen Hirsman and Terri Walker voting to approve it.

The other contentious measures involved the approval of meeting minutes. The first two — from closed session discussions June 2 and June 6 — were pulled from the consent agenda by James. She cited Policy 2:220, which lists the standards for what should be included in meeting minutes.

“In my opinion they do not meet at least one of the standards,” James said.

She told The Hinsdalean Tuesday the minutes did not include a written summary of the discussion that took place at the meeting. In addition to violating board policy, the documents do not provide an adequate record for any board member who wants to go back and review the meeting.

“It’s a lot easier to read a document that is a summary than to go back and listen to a recording,” she said.

At the meeting, Levinthal agreed the minutes were inadequate and said she believe the board should discuss the process for taking confidential closed session meeting minutes.

Hanson, Held, Hirsman and Walker voted to approve both sets of minutes, with James, Levinthal and Waters voting no.

Later in the meeting, the board was asked to adopt closed session meeting minutes from Feb. 4, Feb. 10 and Feb. 24. James, Levinthal and Waters voted to approve these minutes, with the other four board members voting no.

“This is very interesting to me, the fact that we are at the point where we have decided to separate these out from the consent agenda,” James said. “I’m very disappointed in the fact that we’ve gotten to this point where minutes that follow our board policy 2:220 to the letter are being rejected by fellow board members.”

Waters wanted board members who voted no to explain their vote, which did not happen.

“It’s unfortunate that the community has to see the board here not approve minutes recorded in a session,” he said. “The silence is deafening and totally predictable.”

Not one board member reached out to her to discuss the minutes, James noted.

“That screams volumes to the fact that there are certain members of this board that are not willing to work with other members of this board and that is a disappointment,” she said.

The February minutes were prepared by James, who was recording secretary at the time. After officer elections this spring, Walker became recording secretary. Deb Kedrowski, administrative chief of staff, typically takes the meeting minutes, but was not present for these closed session discussions, James told The Hinsdalean.

Held went on record with a commitment to discuss closed session meeting minutes during a future board meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, the board seemed headed toward another split decision when discussing a proposed policy change from the Illinois Association of School Boards that would set a maximum total time for public comment during board meetings, with the president having the authority to make an exception.

Hanson, Held, Hirsman and Walker supported a 30-minute maximum time limit. The other three board members did not. Waters proposed a compromise.

“In the interest of working together, I would ask the four members looking to do 30 to consider 45,” he said.

The board ultimately agreed unanimously on 45 minutes.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean