D86 board is in crisis. Who can right the ship?
Last updated 11/1/2023 at 3:44pm | View PDF
Help wanted: Hinsdale High School District 86 superintendent
• Ability to help foster a healthy, constructive dynamic on the board of education that emphasizes respect and transparency along with a deft conflict resolution touch that dissuades elected members from resigning mid-term out of futility and frustration.
The fresh case studies in quitting of Debbie Levinthal (Sept. 18) and Kay Gallo (Oct. 26), both capable and motivated but compelled to depart because of “toxic” practices on the part of board colleagues, should provide material to shape the kind of behavior modification that’s necessary.
• Communication skills to help convey to board members that their job is to project the kind of leadership and discernment commensurate with the caliber of district they are overseeing. For example, actions like being the lone “No” vote when appointing a new board member because the selection “did not align with my personal criteria” — what? — is a bad look. Way to roll out the welcome mat, Jeff Waters.
Or the counterproductive decision to fan the flames of divisiveness when a phrase on a school fundraising poster is deemed offensive by some, rather than tempering the response and trusting administrators to take appropriate measures. Again, do better Jeff Waters.
— Relational wisdom to heal the rift between the board and its teachers, who feel undermined after a series of battles over teacher-recommended curriculum changes to meet state standards and align programs at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South. On Monday, after the most recent rejection of proposed social studies changes to move from the current Euro-centric disposition one with a wider, more global lens, the staff is fed up. “Your decision tonight tells us you do not value us, you do not value our expertise, and you do not value our experience,” remarked Rick Cazzato, president of the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association, during public comments at the end of the meeting.
• Negotiating acumen to hammer out the next contract with an alienated teachers union.
• Vision casting to help the board and residents see a pathway for both Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South students to have a high school experience that is as aligned as possible academically while still maintaining the qualities that make each campus special. The new leader needs to dispel the message that having Central adopt a South program does not mean that Central is becoming South, or vice-versa, and that the district’s talented students and teachers can exceed even the district’s impressive status quo standards when given a chance to push traditional boundaries.
• A student-first mentality that hopefully serves to keep all stakeholders focused on the best practices, the most effective strategies and bold yet worthwhile goals to ensure the district remains a leader in all dimensions.
This may not sound like the most inviting job. But the opportunity to help guide this special group of young people, split between two fantastic schools, united under a common, highly regarded district, could be the chance of a lifetime.