New superintendent, third interim hired

As expected, the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board last week hired Michael Lach as its new superintendent.

"He's a listener," board President Cat Greenspon said prior to casting her vote at the Jan. 10 special meeting. "Those that come to the board meetings very regularly might actually recognize him, because he took the time to come to our board meetings and get to know our community prior to interviewing. And that, to me, speaks volumes of his intention to understand the means of this community.

"He also sees our beautiful community," she added. "He sees all of us. He appreciates our strengths and clearly articulates that we are great, there are areas that we can work on and he is willing to do to the work."

Several other board members also complimented Lach before voting to approve his three-year contract.

"I'm excited about both the breadth of experience and the possibilities that you, Dr. Lach, bring to our district," Peggy James said. "You are data-driven and analytical, which are two characteristics very near and dear to my heart."

Asma Akhras quoted Lach's comments about focusing on what is best for children and families, staying grounded in what is known about how change occurs in complex systems, achieving improvement year over year and supporting teachers and administrators.

"That right there was extremely powerful," Akhras said. "You have a clear vision on how we're going to improve and continue to improve and excel in District 86 and ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed.

"I know you are going to be a valuable asset to District 86," she added.

The single no vote came from Jeff Waters, who said District 86 needs a leader who has worked as a superintendent in a similar district. Lach is currently assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment for Township High School District 113 in Highland Park and Deerfield.

"Without experience at those levels, I do vote no," Waters said. "However, that is not a testament against Dr. Lach or his particular interest and some of the kind things that were said about him.

"I'm simply representing what I believe to be the characteristics or qualities that I held in the highest regard," he continued, adding that he supports the will of the board and looks forward to working alongside Lach.

"I appreciate all the kind words and I hear you, member Waters," Lach said after the vote. "I'll work to get there, and I'm going to count on your help."

Lach said he brings significant experience from working in a number of schools.

"I'm not coming with an agenda," he said. "My plan is to listen. I have a lot to learn.

"I know there's a lot of passion and interest in what we do here, and that matters," Lach continued. "I want to do this because I see an incredible amount of potential. Everyone - to a person - loves these buildings, loves the people. The students are wonderful. You can see just walking the halls all the accolades and the accomplishments. It's really inspiring, and I want to build on that."

Lach acknowledged the district has faced some tough times but expressed confidence the community can come together in the best interests of families and students.

"There's no reason District 86 can't be the best school district in the state by any measure for every single child," he said, "It's not going to happen overnight. It's not going to happen in a year, but we should aspire to be the best for every single student that's here."

Lach, whose starting base salary is $255,000, will start July 1.

At the committee of the whole meeting Jan. 11, the board hired another interim superintendent to replace Linda Yonke, who resigned in December. Rebecca Nelson will work for $1,300 a day for up to 120 days through June 30.

Interim Superintendent Ray Lechner said he has worked with Nelson before in a co-interim superintendent role.

"It's going to be a good combination," he said. "I think you will be well-served."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean