Clock is ticking on finding acting superintendent

Eight days from today will be Chris Covino’s last day in Hinsdale High School District 86.

The assistant superintendent for academics is leaving to become superintendent of a La Grange elementary school district. His replacement was hired in May and will officially step into the role July 1.

So why is his last day worth noting on this page? He has been serving as acting superintendent since Superintendent Tammy Prentiss went on paid leave May 16. What will happen after he leaves?

No one knows.

The board did release a statement last week. Unfortunately it did not answer that question.

“To the extent necessary, the board will continue to ensure that a qualified administrator will be designated as the acting superintendent,” it states.

To the extent necessary? What does that mean? Is board President Cat Greenspon arrogant enough to think the district doesn’t need a professional in the role of acting superintendent?

The release goes on to state that the board “continues to seek and act upon legal advice from a special counsel with recognized experience in education and employment law.”

That’s all well and good, but again — what does it have to do with who will be leading the district come July 1?

We thought perhaps tonight’s board meeting would include an agenda item to name an acting superintendent. It does not. The only related topic is an update on the national search for a new superintendent to start in 2024. Important, yes, but not quite as pressing as the need for an acting superintendent to start in a little over a week.

The board couches all of its communications on this topic in terms of “sensitivity” and “personnel matters.” We understand that discussing the specifics of why Prentiss is on leave might not be advisable. But we’re not talking about the reasons why she’s on leave — we’re talking about the board’s plan to have an interim superintendent in place in eight short days.

We hope history will not repeat itself and the board is not planning to ask someone who is part of the administrative team to serve as acting superintendent. The district needs an experienced administrator to come in on an interim basis as a dedicated superintendent until either Prentiss returns to work or her successor is chosen. The viewpoint of an outsider who has worked in other districts and is not afraid to speak his or her mind would be of great benefit to the board as it moves forward. And it just might be of help as the board searches for its new superintendent.

The board’s primary job is to hire a superintendent and hold that individual accountable. All other goals and objectives — including curriculum changes — must come after this priority.

The only reason we can think of for this delay is that the board is waiting on its legal team to figure out what to do with Prentiss before deciding on the next acting superintendent. Regardless of the reason, time’s up.