Greenspon wants more time, but clock is ticking

A lot has happened since Cat Greenspon was elected to her first term as president of the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board just one year ago.

Superintendent Tammy Prentiss was put on paid administrative leave. An interim superintendent resigned after working only 59 days in the district. Two board members resigned — one less than sixth months after she was elected. The assistant superintendent of human resources, the communications director and the Hinsdale South principal all resigned.

The board has been the subject of an Open Meetings Act complaint and a request for review. The board has lifted the pause on social studies curriculum work but can’t agree on any substantive changes to said curriculum. And the board’s discussion of staffing over recent meetings has been a disaster, resulting in more than one override of administrative recommendations.

Why this review of the past year?

On Monday, four days after 100 some teachers showed up demanding the board elect a new president, the board voted 6-0 (Terri Walker was absent) to give Greenspon another term. We are not surprised, based on the way board members jumped to Greenspon’s defense following a speaker’s criticism at a recent meeting. We certainly hope her second try will be better than her first.

One thing that should work in her favor is the full-time presence of incoming Superintendent Michael Lach, whom the board hired in January and whom will start July 1. As current colleague of former D86 Superintendent Bruce Law and a man not bereft of observation skills, we imagine he knows what he is getting into. If the board, led by Greenspon as president, is willing to let him do his job, we believe — in time — he will be able to right the ship.

What do we mean by letting him do his job? We’ll spell it out so there is no confusion.

Greenspon as president must set the example so:

1. Board members listen to administrative recommendations.

That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t ask questions or that they have to agree with everything. But rationales like “That just doesn’t sound right to me” or “I’m not comfortable doing it that way” are not good reasons for voting no.

2. Board members respect administrators.

It’s hard to believe we have to say this, but board members cannot treat administrators like they are children. Greenspon can be the most condescending of all. If she can’t figure out how to talk to other adults like adults, perhaps the board should invest in a communication coach for her. Otherwise more administrators will be headed out the door.

3. Board members stop doing everything people ask of them.

Band parents complain about the lack of early bird PE next year, and now there will be early bird PE next year. Three students want to take honors biology at South next year, and now there will be an honors biology class at South next year. The list goes on.

The board’s responsibility is to set policy and direction for the superintendent and maintain fiduciary responsibility for the entire district, not to meet every single need of every single student. Nor is it to make the people who call or email them happy while extolling the value of serving students.

Greenspon has said repeatedly that board members are doing their best to work better together and has asked the community to give them more time. It’s been a year. The time to start acting like a functioning board is now.