District 202 board unable to fill vacant seat


Marissa Page/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston Township High School board members discuss strategies for appointing someone to fill a vacant board seat at an open meeting Wednesday night. After about 90 minutes of public and private deliberation, the board determined it could not select someone, turning the decision over to the regional superintendent.

Marissa Page, Summer Assistant Editor

Board members of School District 202 turned over to regional superintendent Bruce Brown the task of selecting a new member to fill the board’s vacant seat at a special meeting Wednesday evening.

Tensions ran high among ETHS board members Jonathan Baum, Pat Savage-Williams, Mark Metz, Gretchen Livingston and Monique Parsons, who were tasked with selecting a seventh member of the board after Bill Geiger announced his resignation May 27. The remaining members were to pick a replacement by July 10, at which point the decision would have defaulted to Brown if left unfinished.

Wednesday’s special meeting, held at ETHS, lasted just over half an hour before the board unanimously voted to move into closed session to “discuss appointment.” After an hour of private discussion, the board determined it could not reach a decision.

“I wish we had come to a conclusion, but we did not, so our next step is to submit to the regional superintendent,” said Savage-Williams, the president of the board, before adjourning the meeting.

Board members also discussed a previous vote to select a new member from a pool of 14 applicants, one of whom, Anne Sills, lost in the board race earlier this year by just over 200 ballots. The vote — which took place last month in an hour-long closed session — was tied 3-3, with Savage-Williams, Metz and Parsons voting in favor of Sills’ appointment and the remaining members dissenting.

“Confidentiality precludes my revealing what happened in that closed session, but I can tell our community what did not happen in that very brief session,” Baum said. “Regrettably we did not engage as a body in any kind of thorough review of the qualifications of the various applicants, comparing one to all the others.”

Since that closed session, the board has been stalled in reaching a decision.

Board members, who tip-toed around specifics about any particular candidate due to the public nature of Wednesday’s session, articulated their opinions vaguely to stay neutral on their positions toward each of the 14 applicants.

“We’re at an impasse right now, and I don’t think that’s acceptable,” Livingston said.

At times, the conversation became strained, with some board members suggesting an open session was not the proper forum to reach a decision as they were barred from discussing specific candidates. Parsons urged the board members to approach the conversation — and one another — with “respect” and “grace.”

Before moving to the hour-long closed session in which board members decided to turn the decision over to Brown, Parsons said that regardless of how the candidate is chosen, it is the board’s duty to fully engage with whoever fills Geiger’s vacancy.

“My commitment is to work with whomever sits in that seat,” Parsons said. “If we go through this process, we’re talking about every candidate and our commitment to work with that individual.”

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