Patchak-Layman explains her vote to abstain

Opinion

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On Jan. 28, the District 97 Board voted to approve the appointment of Dr. Connie Collins as superintendent. WEDNESDAY JOURNAL correctly reported that I abstained from the vote, and in an editorial criticized that abstention. Following is the statement I made at the board meeting to explain my position:

"Since my election to this board five-and-a-half years ago, I have been looking forward to the possibilities that new leadership could bring to our district and our community. Finally, the time has arrived. For the last nine months, the board has been on a superintendent search. I have questioned and voiced concerns about each part of this process from the choice of search firm to questions about candidate confidentiality and community input. While some may view this as obstructionist, I believe the community, knowing the importance of this job, expected every option be fully explored.

"I believe the board decided to have a community interview group after thinking about my concerns over search confidentiality. The process was better for it. Of course, I still believe the process would have been even better if fully open. I accepted the majority vote at each turn, in this search, and did the work. We discussed goals, created questions, interviewed candidates, talked contract, read committee comments, did a site visit and now we are here. As each activity was completed, board member after board member raised questions, got answers and made their decisions.

"Funny thing was, as most of the board members were solidifying their decision, I kept having more questions. And that is where I am today. I left the site visit from Dr. Collins' district in Zion knowing not only that she worked well with her staff, that she held a special place in the hearts of her staff, parents and children, but that the Zion schools were very different from our Oak Park schools.

"I left Zion with these questions. How does Dr. Collins compare and contrast the Oak Park Schools and Zion schools? How well do our programs match her view of good education? Do our schools match what she has read or heard about Oak Park? Because of the decision to keep the search confidential, Dr. Collins didn't have an opportunity to visit our schools during the search process and I'm left with a gap in my knowledge. And because of this, I am abstaining on this vote. In time, my questions will be answered and I will be able to add my voice to this vote. I wish it had occurred in a more timely fashion."

Sharon Patchak-Layman
Oak Park

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