The election for the District 200 board is less than three months away. Yet the current board is moving to hire a new superintendent before the next board’s term begins. I strongly disagree with this decision. The D200 school board will make few single decisions over the next few years that are more critical for the entire school than the selection of a new superintendent. Oak Park and River Forest residents, through each of their elected representatives, should have their voices heard on this matter.
The current D200 board is wrong to rush the choice of a superintendent for the same reasons that the U.S. Senate was wrong in rushing Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Moreover, the board’s planned decision includes a distressing feature the Senate decision did not. The judiciary is independent of Congress and the executive branch as a matter of law, and no Supreme Court justice reports to the president or the Senate.
That is not the case with the OPRF superintendent and the D200 school board. The OPRF superintendent will continue to owe duties and obligations to the school board long after new board members start their service. The superintendent will report to the new board. She or he will need to receive and understand that board’s positions and policies. She or he will need to implement board directives. No board can reasonably expect to choose an exceptional executive who will not work a day for that board but will work for years with a new board composed of different members.
New board members may contribute thoughts and ideas that influence how existing board members currently see issues. This is true even with respect to matters the existing board considers to be a priority. Our understanding of justice, for example, is framed by what rights we have as individuals and often more clearly by injustices we have seen or experienced. It is reasonable for Oak Park and River Forest voters to expect that new board members will have insights and experiences that existing board members will find helpful.
New D200 board members may also persuade existing board members to consider additional issues in the hiring of a superintendent that the prior board had not. At the very least, new board members should have this opportunity. I offer that my own campaign is in large part in service of an idea, which, among other things, I think the board should consider in hiring the new superintendent. The idea is this: OPRF should have mindful use of, critically study, develop policy for, and implement best practices around new media as an essential part of each student’s education. I believe D200 can add substantial value to the school — and can do this at minimal cost — by providing our students with a new manner of thinking about and engaging with this new media, which is at the center of their lives, typically now with little or no awareness.
Our community is right to value open-mindedness and learning. The existing board’s plan to choose a new superintendent before the new board starts infers that the existing board is not open to input from new board members, and by extension, the voters of Oak Park and River Forest. I believe we all lose if the existing board remains on this path.
Dave Schrodt is an attorney, CPA, and candidate for the D200 school board in the April 6 election.