The president of the Evanston Township High School Board accused a fellow board member Monday night of violating the board’s rules of confidentiality.
The president, Pat Savage-Williams, leveled the charge at veteran board member Jonathan Baum because of a series of actions stemming from the confiscation by the school of copies of the Sept. 22 issue of the school newspaper, The Evanstonian.
Baum’s actions, she said, “appeared to violate the board member code of conduct that is part of our board policy and the board’s trust and confidentiality.”
She read off a list of emails and other communications in which Baum used his personal email account rather than the account provided by the school for board business “in an apparent attempt to obfuscate Mr. Baum’s actions and involvement in this matter.”
Savage-Williams contended that Baum violated the following three parts of the 12-part "Code of Conduct for members of school boards" that presumably the ETHS board agreed to:
"4. I will take no private action that might compromise the board or administration and will respect the confidentiality of privileged information.
"5. I will abide by majority decisions of the board, while retaining the right to seek changes in such decisions through ethical and constructive channels.
"10. I will strive for a positive working relationship with the superintendent, respecting the superintendent's authority to advise the board, implement board policy, and administer the district."
Before she allowed Baum an opportunity to respond, Savage-Williams asked other board members to offer their reactions to her charges.
Mark Metz said “it shows students a wrong way to deal with a dispute.”
Newly elected board member Jude Laude said he was “disappointed to hear this” and that it “does great damage to the board and the relation between the board and the superintendent.”
Laude added: “I’m fresh from board training and this is not what I’ve been taught.”
Monique Parsons said “we need to figure out how we move forward.”
Savage-Williams said she feels that “any communication with the superintendent is confidential.”
Gretchen Livingston said she disagreed with that statement and that “individual board members have the right to disagree publicly with board decisions.”
Patricia Maunsell, elected to the board this year, said "I feel that we have a set of rules, whether they are imposed upon us by law or we have agreed to them as a collective board, and I feel that level of trust really needs to be there in order for us to be effective."
When he was finally given the opportunity to respond, Baum, a lawyer, said he often uses his email account at work because “the only way I am able to print emails or attachments received on my district email during the day is by using my phone to forward such documents to my work email.”
In his response, Baum went on to detail the emails in question and concluded that he believes his duty is to the entire district community, including students, parents, staff, taxpayers, and other concerned residents.
“On behalf of that community,” he said, “I have always done my utmost to gather information from all available sources, to ask questions, and to exercise independent judgment. I believe that the record shows that, while I have made a few mistakes, for which I apologize, I have discharged my duty with fidelity.”
Baum, whose school board experience includes time as a member of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board before he joined the District 202 board, said “we’re coming up on 15 years since I began my service to this community as a school board member. I think that service has been pretty good. And judging by the election results over these many years, the public agrees."