Yes, we know, an editorial about a school board's committee structure is not exactly a lapel-grabber. But, if we told you the current and preliminary discussion at Oak Park and River Forest High School about how many board members ought to serve on a sub-committee is really about building trust, about avoiding micro-management, about focusing on the really critical issues, could we hold your interest for a couple of hundred words?
For a long time, the school board at District 200 held its regular board meetings and in between them spliced in "Committee of the Whole" meetings. These were endless meetings. Hour-upon-hour where the full board dug into a level of detail best left to professional staff members. The motivation for requiring the attendance of all seven members to discuss details of finance, instruction, technology, policy, etc., etc., was, we long felt, a lack of trust in fellow board members to listen, evaluate and recommend actions in specific areas back to the full board for final action.
Recently, under the leadership of John Phelan as board president, the D200 board has gone to three-person sub-committees on each topic. The meetings have become much more focused, much shorter and more focused on key topics within each subject area. The plan is working.
Now though, school board member Jeff Weissglass is suggesting five-member subcommittees in order to broaden the discussions. So far he is in the minority on this issue. We encourage the school board to stick with its current structure, to move issues more quickly to the full board for review, to take advantage of the specific skills of board members in their committee assignments, and to nurture the energy of board members to confront the biggest issues this high school faces — disparities in academic achievement, fair treatment of overburdened taxpayers, evolving methods of measuring student success and faculty compensation.