Too secretive? Hinsdale D-86 Board Proceedings Equity Committee
DARIEN, IL — Some residents of Hinsdale High School District 86 have complained about the secrecy they believe surrounds the district’s equity committee.
At last week’s school board meeting, board member Peggy James said she had struggled for months to get information about what was going on with the culture and education leadership team. equity, or CELT.
It is considered a superintendent’s committee, so its sessions are held behind closed doors.
At last week’s meeting, James said she never got the requested insight from the committee. She said she was asked to present information about the committee to the board. She was to do this at the same time as she was proposing to make it a school board committee, which would require public meetings.
She said she was not a member of the committee, so others were in a better position to provide insight.
“So I would like to offer my sincere thanks for the attempt to embarrass me on this one,” she said.
The committee is made up of 84 members, 71% of whom are board members, trustees or staff, James said. The group includes 13 students, five parents and five community members, she said.
“Several members of the community asked to join the committee, but were told there wasn’t enough room,” James said, suggesting he was weighted too heavily in favor of employees.
She said private conversations about student equity concerns could take place in a closed-door subcommittee.
Board member Cynthia Hanson, one of two committee board members, said it was important to give students a forum to talk about their concerns outside of a public meeting. She said she would like to see more students on the committee.
Member Debbie Levinthal said she can see both sides. She proposed a compromise in which the district committee remained under the superintendent’s jurisdiction, while equity issues could be handled under a board committee.
She also suggested rotating board members who attend committee meetings.
The district website does not list committee members. Even the number of members was debated at last week’s meeting.
James said she got her number, 84, from the district’s database of her responses to public records requests.
However, Superintendent Tammy Prentis said the number was 64, which is the number of people she said were listed in her emails to the committee.
Board member Jeff Waters accepted James’ proposal.
“Transparency will ease community concerns about equity conversations,” he said. “I believe the spirit of the mission is good and it must come to fruition.”
But he said the recommendations of the last two anti-racism consultants “did not play out famously”.
A majority of the seven board members did not want to move the committee under the jurisdiction of the board.
Board Chairman Erik Held said the committee could provide regular updates to the board. He also said he liked Levinthal’s idea of rotating board members on the committee.