Here's hoping for better weather in District 86


Last updated 1/17/2024 at 3:40pm | View PDF

It’s been a stormy eight months in Hinsdale High School District 86, but we see signs that the skies are clearing.

Board members say they’re excited about their superintendent hire, Michael Lach, who currently works as assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment in Township High School District 113. Lach, in turn, says he’s very excited about the opportunity.

So what could go wrong?

Well, we won’t dwell on that answer.

But we will say that the board must remain as committed to working with Lach as it is now once he actually starts working in the district. It has been an expensive process bringing him on board, what with paying Tammy Prentiss $23,000 a month to remain on paid leave for 11 months, paying assistant superintendents to serve as acting superintendents, hiring a search firm and paying $1,300 a day for now three interim superintendents to work up to 299 days. (Linda Yonke resigned in December after working 59 days, and Ray Lechner and newly appointed interim Debra Nelson are allocated 120 days each).

Lach acknowledged the challenges the district has faced when he addressed board members at a Jan. 10 special meeting, after they voted to hire him.

“I may be old-fashioned,” he said. “I still believe communities can come together and argue and debate, do that warmly, do that productively, do that respectfully in the service of families and children. That’s what you should expect from me and that’s what I’m going to expect of all of you, because I think that’s how we make things better.”

Argue and debate are common in District 86, but often not done warmly, productively or respectfully. The two sides that seem to exist on every issue become entrenched in their viewpoints, unwilling to compromise.

One of the biggest sources of contention arises from the belief of some board and community members that preserving the status quo is the best way to protect the “tradition of excellence” that is frequently cited at board meetings. But the district’s excellence, in fact, is the result of educators changing with the times. Preserving the status quo is the equivalent of remaining stagnant, and it doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to know what happens to organizations that follow that course.

For the district to move forward, board members have to be open to change. They have to listen to the professional opinions of the administrators and teachers who have been hired to educate students. And they have to learn to trust.

Lach knows the work won’t be easy.

“There aren’t silver bullets. There’s not a single solution,” he told board members. “It takes lots of different pieces working in concert. It takes lots of different voices listening, advocating, thinking, pushing back. It takes cheering, because the work is humbling and hard. You all know that.

“If we do that, that’s how we can get real change.”

Lach closed his comments by saying he’s excited to get started.

As far as we’re concerned, July 1 can’t get here soon enough.


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