The District 200 school board’s decision to split the long-fused superintendent/principal position at Oak Park and River Forest High School makes sense, but only if it doesn’t lead to adding another administrative salary.
We agree with the logic of splitting the position. The next OPRF superintendent will need time to focus on broad strategic issues-both academic and economic. Whether it is making headway against the seemingly intractable minority achievement gap or reimagining the cost structure of an urban high school to make it sustainable for taxpayers, the new superintendent needs a sweeping, yet practical vision. The reinstated principal post, in turn, would focus on day-to-day educational leadership, facing the hands-on demands of running a large public high school.
Economics may have been a primary factor for combining the roles in the first place just over a decade ago, but splitting the roles should not be a reason to make an already top-heavy administration even more so. Positions were layered in under the superintendent/principal to make that job doable. Now those layers have to be removed to make the new structure affordable.
Simply adding another big salary here is not an option.
After two successful referendums in the last 10 years, plus a hefty “loophole” bonus, District 200 owes it to local taxpayers-still in shock over sharp tax bill increases-to hold the line, now more than ever.
We sympathize with the demands of being an Oak Park village trustee, and we don’t want those demands to limit who is able to hold office. We also agree the village board has too many meetings and meetings that go on too long. But neither of these arguments is a good enough excuse for blowing off most village “study sessions,” which is where much of the decision-making on important issues takes place.
We understand that the absentee rate for trustees with younger children is bound to be higher, but missing the majority of study session meetings is not acceptable for an elected official. While no votes are cast, study sessions make it possible for trustees to vote in an informed way.
A philosophical difference of opinion on the importance of these sessions is not sufficient either. That’s the way this board conducts business. Arguing for a change in the system is one thing. Boycotting it because you don’t agree simply doesn’t cut it.
Absences have consequences. Trustees spent a lot of hours, for instance, hammering out a partnership with the Animal Care League on an animal shelter, only to find out later that trustees who weren’t attending those sessions had changed their minds and wanted to go in a different direction. That not only makes the board look bad, it’s also inefficient.
Those who aren’t willing to meet the often onerous demands shouldn’t run for office. If they find the demands too onerous after being elected (or appointed), they should step down. The village is dealing with some very important issues right now. We need trustees who are fully engaged.