I am very opposed to the existing school board and know two leaders of Final 4 extremely well. Jennifer Neubauer is a candidate, and Hilary Till advises. They are two of the more intelligent, hard working and sensitive people I know. They are sacrificing countless hours, time from their families, and public scrutiny because of their belief in some very basic principles. I offer unflinching support the Final 4 because of my great confidence in them. They are to be lauded and supported in my view.
Here is the issue. They rightly see the District 115 Board history is one of erratic, of non-academic priorities, and of unaccountable performance. This is the issue! It is the broader community’s outcry for much improved Board performance and thus over time much improved academic performance. Yes, we want to educate the whole person, too, and we do not want to exclude anyone.
I recognize the value of cultural awareness and of individual achievement beyond the constraints of strict academic guidelines. They are highly valued, critical policy goals. Yet, they are second to managing the direction and the finance of the District, and I am confident with Dr. Holland and fine people like her, the District will not lose sight of them. She is a caring and proven student advocate, and there is no reason student advocacy should ever be de-emphasized.
The Board and Superintendent are overly aloof and, I suspect, unwilling to address their primary goal, which is setting the goal for performance and for finance. Why this is so is very secondary to the fact that they are this way. So, replacing the Board. Replace them based on the marginal record of inattention to primary educational missions. This is their primary role, and no other alternative exists for a top management oversight. Inclusive performance rankings (as opposed to achievement based course descriptions) , diversity, multi-culturalism are not the primary goals of education. They are important laudable goals but they should reinforce and never supplant the regulation of goals and of finance. They must complement the educational and financial direction of the District in order to equip healthy and are graduates, but nothing replaces knowledge, intellectual development, and the funding to achieve them.
The Final4 slate is about goals, finance, and improved board performance and no reflection of Principal Holland. I had the fortune to sit behind her family at the open comment session of the Board meeting that appointed her to her role. I think they are a fine family, and I sense, she is a wonderful administrator, too. My sense is she is qualified, and I personally, believe she should be as much a part of a re-directed Board as she wishes to be. I also feel her connection to students will create an inclusive atmosphere once the Board resumes what has to be its primary focus….oversight.
What ‘basics’ are not happening at the Board level?
- The Open meeting session to hear community remarks was not broadly advertised.
- The Principal position was not filled using the broad reach, vetting, and advice of a top tier executive recruiter, which is one of the Board’s primary requirements to do. It is normal North Shore policy to do so. The Board declined or failed to exercise one of its primary responsibilities…to ensure they were managing the recruitment process. This is a very black mark against their performance. I ask how the current Board would answer this avoidance of their primary duty, which is to oversee.
- I wrote the Board on just this question and received no response. Where is accountability, I ask?
- In that public meeting and at no time since, have they articulated to me or in public the mission of the District. I asked what the mission/goals were and received no reply.
- LFHS cannot compare to its pier group performance, New Trier, Stevenson, Highland Park, Deerfield. I learned that in summer school, many students were farmed out to other districts for academic course like history. This may be a good policy outcome if it is part of a larger goal setting process by the Board that can prove it can raise standards and performance across the board. What are LFHS goals and financial policies?
- Twice in 10 years, District 115 has had two major dollar expense account frauds at top administrative levels. This District has a disastrous financial record on the question of internal financial controls.
- In this period, teachers have struck at least once if not twice and threatened and use that threat at contract negotiations. Our District is one of the most highly paying Districts in the State. How can staff be so dissatisfied when they have a great salary program and enjoy the advantages of expensive physical plant upgrades such as the ten year old $ 50MM bond issuance to modernize critical assets such as a learning lab, lunch facilities, and critical safety upgrades? What is our Board doing if they cannot keep staff focused and behind them? The fact is, they have not. Just wait for another contract negotiation.
Lake Forest must earn the ability to move to the highest levels of performance and to hold civil service to the high set standards. The reality is that we often do less than this, and we need to do much better in our schools. We tend in my experience towards apathy and too much trust “that things are fine and that we have the best of all situations because of who we are”. It is time that District 115 stand on its own two feet going forward. 115 should meet or beat the best in the North Shore and the country. We should have no lingering doubts and much less the apathy than I feel we display. Our community should demand and receive the best. We have the resources and the manageable size to deliver the best to our students and to the value of our experience living here.
Edward Sachs Jr
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