Greenspon retains D86 president's post

Board members dismiss calls for fresh leadership by the teachers union, residents

A call by Hinsdale High School District 86 teachers last week for new board leadership went unheeded as Cat Greenspon was unanimously reappointed as board president on Monday.

The 6-0 vote at the special meeting in Hinsdale South's cafeteria for the annual election of board officers took place before a considerably smaller audience than had gathered at the same location April 25 for the regular meeting. Members of the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association had turned out in force then, clad in blue shirts as a show of solidarity in their opposition to recent actions by the board under Greenspon's leadership. Their grievances included contentious decisions to override curriculum recommendations from the administration, allowing classes to run well below enrollment guidelines and the recent resignations of several top district and school staffers.

Speaking during public comment at the April 25 meeting, HHSTA Co-President John Bowman spoke of the "toxic environment the board has fostered" and called for an immediate reorganization of the board, including the appointment of a new board president.

"The current board's recent actions and attitudes have created a pervasive feeling that our educators are not valued stakeholders in District 86," Bowman said. "The board has made several unprecedented, non-collaborative decisions regarding teacher-led curriculum development for students in math, science and social studies.

"We are requesting our school board to reaffirm its commitment to upholding the tradition of excellence in our district, which is currently at risk," he continued. "We need you to do your jobs and let us do ours."

But unlike the last three years of board reorganization voting, Monday's was notably uneventful, with Greenspon garnering all six votes (board member Terri Walker was absent). Peggy James was unanimously chosen as vice-president, as was Asma Akhras as secretary.

In 2021, board members spent 2 1/2 hours and took 10 votes before electing Terri Walker president. In 2022, former Erik Held was elected president in a split 4-3 vote. Last year the board chose Greenspon to lead, with four members voting for her and three voting for Debbie Levinthal. Levinthal and Kay Gallo, who had nominated her, both later resigned from the board.

Walker's husband Greg spoke in his wife's absence, testifying to a spirit of camaraderie on the board despite policy rifts and, reading his wife's prepared statement, expressing support for the teachers union's right to issue its statement.

"For the past year I've occasionally spoken to the board comments imploring us to demonstrate cohesion, alignment and trust. Now more than ever we need those to ensure we have a smooth transition to Dr. Lach," Walker wrote, referring to incoming superintendent Michael Lach.

A few audience members delivered remarks both in favor of and against Greenspon's reappointment. Board member Jeff Waters, acknowledging that he voted for Levinthal last year, praised Greenspon's tenure at the helm.

"Catherine's done an outstanding job," he said. "We are all fortunate to have her leadership."

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean