Despite potentially violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act in the process, Proviso High School District 209 took a step in the right direction by employing an outside firm to conduct its superintendent search.
With the many confusing changes in administrators’ titles and responsibilities over the past few months, it is reassuring to see that the district’s current administrative team is still operating on an interim basis, as it was previously unclear whether the word “interim” had been dropped from their titles sometime along the way.
Like everything that occurs at Dist. 209, however, a close eye must be kept on the search process. Board president Chris Welch says that the search is legitimate and not just a show designed to create the appearance of an effort to find a qualified administrator.
If this is indeed the case, we hope that neither Chief Education Officer Robert Libka nor Superintendent Phylistine Murphy will be hired on a permanent basis unless this is the clear recommendation of the search firm as well as the public.
In order to rebuild trust with increasingly skeptical taxpayers, the public must be involved in every step of this process. Though the search firm may incorporate public involvement in some limited form based on its experience, it does not have experience dealing with Proviso. Extra care must be taken to ensure that the process is entirely transparent.
As for the open meetings violation, we believe that for once, this was likely the result of an oversight as opposed to an effort to intentionally keep the process behind closed doors.
Still, it certainly raises concerns regarding the school board attorneys, Odelson and Sterk, who are paid handsome sums to send representatives to each school board meeting and advise the board concerning situations exactly like this.
In addition, Welch himself works a school board attorney for Bellwood School District 88, where he has certainly dealt with his fair share of Open Meetings Act issues.
Honest mistakes by elected members of the community in dealing with legal issues can be excused on occasion, but the same standard does not apply to lazy research by high-paid attorneys.
Still, when all is said and done this process will hopefully result in Proviso receiving exactly what it needs: competent administrators selected through a meticulous search process, with clearly defined roles that will allow the district not to have to make up job descriptions and dodge state agencies as they go along.
We hope that the sudden cooperative spirit that arose at Monday’s school board meeting, resulting in several rare unanimous votes and even a couple instances of compromises being made by the board majority was not just a fluke. A willingness to put politics aside and work together is absolutely crucial if the board plans on assembling a team that has a chance to help it out of its seemingly never-ending financial and educational slump.