'Future agenda items' affecting future in D86

The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board needs a special meeting with a single agenda item — to address future agenda items.

At last count, the board had more than a dozen items on a list of potential future meeting topics. The “list” is actually an excel spreadsheet that identifies which board member requested the item and when, the date of the meeting at which it is set to be discussed and relevant details.

Three board members’ names — Peggy James, Debbie Levinthal and Jeff Waters — are the only ones that appear in the “requester” column. These are the same three board members who typically are the “3” in the board’s 4-3 votes.

The list of potential future agenda items covers a variety of topics, from the rising cost of legal bills to the role of the board president. Some requests seem legitimate; others less so.

The fact of the matter is the board can’t discuss every aspect of running a school district in two meetings a month, no matter how long those meetings last. The board’s job is to set policy and direction. It’s the job of district administrators to make sure those policies and directives are carried out.

Does that mean the board should just rubber stamp administrators’ recommendations? Absolutely not. Many issues do warrant discussion before a decision is made. But when three board members have compiled a list of 15 different topics they want to deliberate, it becomes tough to figure out what’s really an issue and what’s not. Some requests seem quite alarmist.

Take the request to review the district’s website updates. Questions about why the phrase “Tradition of excellence” was removed from the home page seem to insinuate the administration is trying to dismantle that tradition. A more likely explanation is that the absence is a result of the many much-needed revisions made to update and streamline the page.

And then there is the request to add “the public” to the top of the district’s organizational chart. This is ridiculous. The public participates in elections, not governance. The seven board members are elected to represent the interests of their constituents. Those constituents hold no actual authority in district governance and should not be listed on the chart.

Scrutiny over the communication director’s inclusion in all email correspondence sent to the “boe” address also has conspiratorial undertones. Communication being forwarded to the communication director does not seem that out of line to us.

Another request about public records preservation invites inquiry as to whether or not some public records were inappropriately destroyed. If they were, that’s a serious charge that requires investigation. If not, the request seems to be yet another attempt to cast suspicion on administrators.

Then there are topics that aren’t even on the list — like the disparity in committee assignments raised at last month’s meeting — that we think should be addressed.

The bottom line: the lack of trust — whether between board members and administrators or board members and each other — is creating some real problems in District 86. The time wasted discussing future discussions is just one of them.