The news last week that Kebreab Henry was resigning his post on the Oak Park and River Forest High School board was disappointing as he has been a strong and focused voice for students and equity during his two years on the District 200 board. That his reason for leaving the board and moving with his family from Oak Park is to be nearer his aging parents is a positive reflection on his values.
As his board colleagues made clear in remarks at the May 25 meeting, he will be missed.
The school is expected to announce by mid-week its specific plans for a process to appoint Henry’s successor. Under law, the board has 60 days to make an appointment of a person who will fill out the remaining 23 months of Henry’s term.
We support the idea raised at the May 25 meeting by newly elected Tim Brandhorst that the school board open up the application and interview process to the public. A person interested enough in being considered for appointment to this key public policy board should be fully comfortable with their name being made public. And the interviews themselves should be fully open to the public.
We wouldn’t consider shielding candidates from public scrutiny in an election. What is the logic for going behind closed doors for an appointment that carries the same authority as being elected by the community? This school board declares itself transparent. Here is a way to make that real.
Of course, the school board should act to appoint the best possible person, but representation matters and, as we know the school board understands, the present configuration of the OPRF school board skews heavily white and male. Before Henry’s resignation, six of seven members were male, he was the only Black person on the board, and Mary Anne Mohanraj was the sole woman and other person of color on the school board.
During an election forum sponsored this spring by Wednesday Journal among the four white male candidates for the board, moderator Charlie Meyerson asked the candidates about the imbalance that adding three more white men to the board would create. Their answers were direct in acknowledging the outcome would be far from the ideal and that active efforts to recruit more candidates of color, more women would be essential.
And so, as this appointment process begins, the best outcome will be to welcome and recruit candidates who will offer wider representation and experience to this school board.