A camel is a horse designed by a committee. It is a basic management error that gets violated by inexperienced managers. We have all heard the old tale about groupthink leading to bad decisions by a well-meaning committee of people. This scenario is playing itself out on the D112 school board in Highland Park. These seven board members spent years and millions of tax payer dollars trying to convince the community that it needed a giant $200 million dollar middle school referendum. The Highland Park community did not agree and voted down the referendum by a landslide.
Rather than learning from this mistake, the school board has now decided to double-down by implementing BDR3, an austerity plan for closing one third of the schools in the district. These folks on the school board just don’t get it. They are determined to do something big!! Rather than listening to the protest, from a most vocal community, the school board has blocked their ears, closed their eyes and are moving full speed ahead with an ill-conceived plan. When the city of Chicago closed 50 schools, it was national news. The Chicago school closings constituted less than 10% of the total schools. By contrast, the Highland Park school board wants to close 33% of its schools in a town known for putting a premium on education.
A second basic management principle violated by this school board is the KISS principle — Keep It Simple, Stupid. By going to extreme positions, they have presented the Highland Park community with polar opposite choices. A more moderate approach, such as closing one or two buildings and laying off some excessive staff, would have been more palatable and acceptable to the community. They have made the problem so much more difficult and complex that naturally no solution would ever be acceptable. The school board has managed to make what could be a very good solution the enemy of the perfect solution. That is a third basic principle that is violated.
The superintendent resigned over the weekend and three of the four school board members that are up for re-election in April have decided not to run again. This is the first politically savvy decision they have made in a long time. They have read the tea leaves and realized the community has had enough mis-management. The task of correcting these errors will be left to a new school board with, hopefully, better management skills.
President, O’Keefe Henry Direct
Editor’s note: Letters to the Editor represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of Daily North Shore. We encourage readers to post Letters to the Editor– please use this link to do so.