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Update at 7:40 p.m.: In an unprecedented move, the Evanston Township High School Board failed Wednesday to agree on a replacement on the board for William Geiger, who resigned effective May 27, and passed the decision on to Regional Superintendent Bruce Brown.

For seven years, Brown was superintendent of the Mt. Prospect School District 57 before he took the regional superintendent’s job in 2009 as head of the North Cook Intermediate Service Center in Des Plaines.

The ETHS District 202 Board met in open session Wednesday at 6 p.m., upon the request of members Jonathan Baum, Douglas Holt, and Gretchen Livingston, who were in opposition to the appointment of Anne Sills, who came in fourth in the April school board election that filled three expiring terms on the seven-member board.

The board had deadlocked in a 3-3 tie on June 22. With the July 10 deadline fast approaching, it became apparent that the board may have to fall back on the handoff to the regional state official.

Board President Pat Savage-Williams, Vice President Mark Metz, and newly elected member Monique Parsons would  not budge from their insistence that the post be filled by Sills.

Finally, Holt moved that they go into executive session to discuss the 14 candidates who had applied for the job, many of whom, the dissident trio said, had outstanding qualifications that ought to be considered.

“My view,” said Holt, “is that we have an incredible strong field of candidates.”

Livingston, the immediate past board president, said “I think it would be a terrible thing to turn it over to the regional superintendent.”

Baum said that “surely, we owe it to our community” to fill the vacancy.

The closed session did not last long. When the open session resumed at about 7:40 p.m., Savage-Williams announced that “we continue to be at an impasse.”

She continued: “We have not reached an agreement, so this will be submitted to the regional superintendent, which is by law the next step.”

Savage-Williams said she will be speaking for the board to the regional official. “It will not be anyone else on the board.”

She thanked the applicants for their interest in serving, and added, “I wish we had come to a conclusion, but we did not, so our next step is to submit to the regional superintendent.”

This will not be the first time that Brown has had to step into a local impasse, as he had to do it last February for the District 15 schools in Palatine under similar circumstances.

Under state law, Brown has 30 days to pick Geiger’s replacement.

Earlier story:

ETHS Board to meet Wednesday on vacancy

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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38 Comments

  1. Our board needs to pick a
    Our board needs to pick a replacement for Bob Geiger or risks losing the opportunity for Evanston to choose, and leaving the choice to a Regional Superintendent.

    It was clear several weeks ago that the board did not agree in electing Ann Sills to the seat. After that, I feel that the board president should have scheduled meetings to discuss the other applicants to the board. Leadership requires action to continue to find a common ground.

    At the least, the board could discuss at an open meeting the criteria they are looking for in a member. I am embarrassed that one member, not only stated publicly that he didn’t pay attention to policy matters adopted when he was chairman of the policy committee, but even now, one month later, was not prepared to discussed the same policy (appointment of a replacement school board member). It is beyond explanation.

    There are 14 applicants for the seat. The first applicant did not get the required votes, we need the board president to show leadership, move on, and discuss other applicants. If not, at least discuss, in an open meeting, what your criteria are for choosing a new member.

  2. For Metz, it’s all political

    What a terrible display.   Metz said it best when he stated that it's simply politics and that it's a full contact sport.  He's treating the appointment process as purely political and, for whatever reason, only considering Anne Sills in this regard.  Why is this political?!   And what are the politics?  The goal for everyone is pursuing what is best for all students and ETHS.   Truly shameful of the board leadership (Metz and Pat-Savage) who voted against even discussing the criteria for the new board member, who didn't even want another meeting to discuss the other candidates, and are happy to abdicate this important decision to the regional superintendet.  Seriously!?

  3. What is really going on here?

    Why are the three Board members stubbornly pushing Anne Sills as the only candidate worthy of this position when more than a dozen other candidates appear to be at least as qualified, if not more so? Do they know (or suspect) that she has certain views? Does Ms. Sills' strong support of the failed proposal for a 5th Ward school offer any clues? Does support for the teachings of the Pacific Education Group play any role here?

    1. Recall

      Someone should start a recall campagne for the president and vice president. This is  a complete failure of leadership and they have shown they cannot do the job they were elected to do. What kind of example are they setting for our schools and teachers?

    2. Concerned 202 parent

      What Savage, Metz and Parsons is doing is crystal clear – trying to get someone who will vote their way and is obligated to them.  We want what is best for ETHS.  You have 3,000 students and a community of 75,000 that need you to make smart decisions and not just serve yourselves.  Please pick someone who is educated, thoughtful about the issues for every student and who has a different perspective than anyone else on the Board.  Why not a teacher or a Hispanic woman?  Pat Savage, you should step down if you can't lead the board in an effective way!

  4. Citizen voice

    "Savage-Williams said she will be speaking for the board to the regional official. “It will not be anyone else on the board.” – and yet, nothing prohibits the citizens of Evanston from sharing their perspectives and wishes on this matter with Regional Superintendent Brown:  bbrown@ncisc.org. 847-824-8300.

  5. Shameless
    Pure shameless arrogance on display here by Savage-Williams and Metz. While I am disappointed in Parsons for her vote in this, Savage-Williams and Metz, as President and Vice-President, are proving themselves to be incredibly out of touch with what this community wants and needs in leadership. If the community wanted Sills in the role, they would have elected her. On top of that, the Board has established policies in place for addressing a vacancy, which Metz & Savage-Williams are disregarding for no apparent reason other than their own agendas. I am grateful to Baum, Holt, and Livingston for their votes and determination, as I know many other voters in the community are. I can only imagine what the outcome will be since Savage-Williams will be “speaking for the board” to the regional office. I suspect that means, more accurately, speaking for 3 members of the board.

  6. Where are the courageous conversations?
    Pat Savage-Williams , as president of this board, is unbelievable. She was openly hostile at this meeting. Is she afraid of “courageous conversations”? Pat tried with all her might to stop any board discussion in public. Her behavior , in contrast, to Monique Parsons was particularly disturbing. Monique mentioned they should have a respectful conversations with “grace” while Pat was a bully. My student, who watched the meeting, was deeply disturbed. Is this open hostility the type of behavior we as a community want modeled by adults at ETHS?

    1. So true

      So true!  Savage-Williams, the PEG supporter, conference speaker and attendee using the same venom to run this process.  Savage-Williams should never have been elected in the first place based on her relationship with PEG and her biased viewpoints.  I do not think she can lead fairly. 

    2. For good of the community

      Watch the video for yourself. 

      http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/65826411

      To end this impasse and for the good of the community, I suggest that Ms. Sills withdraw her candidacy so that Ms. Savage-Williams will allow the process to move forward on some other candidate.

  7. It is my thought that there
    It is my thought that there will always be some kind of oppositional conflict when Baum is in involved. Such was clearly evident when he was on District 65 Board and during his first term on District 202 Board. It is further my thought that Sills, who was a runner up in the last Board election, should fill the vacancy. The whole issue of not putting Sills in the vacated seat is an unnecessary power struggle master minded by Baum who strives on public discord. I suspect such discord gives his personality needed recognition while tarnishing our community.

    John Barfield

    1. Could not disagree more

      To me, it seems that Mr. Baum stands up for fairness and reasoned decision making.

      Such conduct frequently rankles those in power who want to shove people and proposals through merely because those people or proposal further the powerful person's personal or political goals.

      What does Mr. Baum have to gain from a reasoned process to pick a new Board member?  Perhaps a well-qualifies colleague on the Board?  What does Ms. Savage-Williams have to gain from cramming down Ms. Sills as the new Board member?  Perhaps Ms. Sills is another PEG devotee? 

    2. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion … but
      But the source of the “oppositional conflict” has been laid bare. Yesterday’s meeting revealed that 3 board members — Pat, Mark and Monqiue — refuse to consider any applicant other than Anne Sills. Mark, Pat and Monique all had the opportunity to publicly state that they’re open to more than one of the applicants but they refused. And all 3 also refused to even discuss the qualifications for an ideal applicant. Why not consider potential compromise candidates from the impressive list of 13 applicants? So sure, Jonathan was being “oppositional” by not also setting aside his principal and simply agreeing that Anne Sills should be appointed. But as I’m sure you know, many more people walked into the voting booth and decided NOT to vote for Anne Sills, who wanted to create a segregated school in the 5th ward that runs contrary to the high school’s equity initiatives and would have been an economic disaster. Please tell me what you find appealing about her qualifications for this job?

    3. Proud supporter of Jonathan Baum

      I met Jonathan when he served on District 65 school board, and his performance as a board member was outstanding. Jonathan wants facts, and will ask questions. Some administrators don’t like to provide accurate information and be held accountable for their plans. Jonathan will seek the truth and hold people accountable. I appreciate and respect that type of board member. Other board members are cheerleaders and while they claim to have the interests of all students, their actions and the lack of results don't actually help all students to achieve their potential.

      Not only does Jonathan seek equity and excellence for all students at D65 and D202, he seeks to help at risk youth through his volunteer work, and his career as a pro bono lawyer speaks to his concern to help the disadvantaged and powerless in our society.

      I’m proud to know and support Jonathan’s efforts in our community and our schools.

  8. An impasse by design!

    Half of the D202 Board is derelict in their responsibility to fill the vacancy on the D202 Board by July 11th.  They won't even discuss criteria for the candidate that should replace Bill Geiger.  They have stonewalled the process by refusing to contemplate any replacement but Anne Sills.  Anne Sills is a lovely woman, but her knowledge of ETHS is exceedingly dated and secondhand, unlike many of the other 13 candidates that submitted applications for the open position.  

    Though the Board put out a request for applications AND interviewed all of the applicants, Mark Metz, Monique Parsons and Pat Savage Williams were wasting everyone's time.  It appears they never had any intention of considering anyone but Anne Sills.  They're holding the entire community hostage for a candidate that lost in the open election and did not receive the necessary 4 votes to be appointed to the open position on the Board TWICE.  Now they think they can politic Anne into the position by sending their responsibility to the Regional Superintendent, who reports to a Board upon which Superintendent Witherspoon sits.  How Machiavellian of you.

    There are many outstanding candidates amongst the other 13 applicants.  They deserve  consideration by an open-minded D202 Board.

  9. Let’s be real

    Our 6 member school board is decisively split on this issue and probably on most of the other issues they have tackled as a board. The yet-to-be selected seventh board member will be the "swing" vote for both camps. Politics, not compromise, is driving this rift. In my opinion, what the 14 candidates know about past, present and future issues facing the district should be given more weight than their status in their chosen field in determining who fills the vacancy unless, of course, he or she has professional experience in education. If both camps believe strongly in their position and are unable or unwilling to resolve their internal conflict, then it is best to leave the decision to an unbiased third party. I do not have an opinion one way or the other about giving the seat to Ann Sills. It is true Ms. Sills finished fourth in the election to fill 3 vacancies. Realistically, she lost. And though there was no widespread support for any candidate (no one received 30% of the vote), Ms. Sills received 2,154 votes, 921 votes less than the top vote getter, Monique Parsons, and about 200 votes less than the third place finisher, Mark Metz but more importantly; she gave the community an opportunity to hear her ideas on the direction of the school district. And please can we refrain from posting personal attacks and out right lies.  For the record, I was not actively involved in the campaign to get a school in the 5th Ward. However of all the discussions I attended or private conversations I had on this subject I never heard any of the supporters express a desire to create a segregated school in the 5th Ward. Quite frankly, the only people who would have created a segregated school are the white parents who did not want to send their children to a school in the 5th Ward, and I doubt they were among the supporters.

    1. Shame on Tyler

      In the beginning of your post you had a well balanced approach to the entire problem and then it came!

      You had to slam the white parents that live in the fifth ward. If you are not ashame of yourself, you should be

    2. Differences

      There is a fundamental difference between the two groups that your post ignores.  Metz, Savage-Williams and Parsons will only consider 1 applicant because they apparently believe Anne Sills is ideologically aligned with them.   On the other hand, Livingston, Holt and Baum are open to considering 13 applicants and have nothing against independent thinkers.  Indeed, Livingston voted in favor of freshman restructuring, Baum voted against it, and Holt never voted on that issue.  The dismay being shown towards Metz and company is based on their unwillingness to compromise and their lack of respect for this important process, which started with their effort to suspend board policy on filling the vacancy.  They even voted against identifying what qualifications they want in a board member!

      As for the 5th ward school, the whole point was to create a neighborhood school for that ward and stop busing, which necessarily meant a school that would be predominantly African-American and Hispanic, with other schools therefore becoming more white.  That was the reality so even if supporters of the school didn't have a "desire" to create a segregated school, they knew or should have known that this would be the case.  And the financial implications of building that school, along with ongoing operating expenses, would have been enormous. 

  10. Once again a factual
    Once again a factual statement is met with a personal attack. My comment is based on the numerous comments I heard from parents during the 5th Ward school debate who felt their children might be reassigned if there was a school in the 5th Ward. If you compare District 65’s attendance map to the City of Evanston ward map you will see in many instances children from multiple wards attend a single school. For example, Lincolnwood school children reside in one of 4 wards. The same is true of children who attend Dewey school. So if there was a school in the 5th Ward it would likely be attended by children from several different wards. Therefore, my comment was not directed to just white parents of the 5th ward. However, I am ashamed at the number of white parents in Evanston who feared this scenario.

    1. Demographics of the 5th Ward school

      Hi John,

      The final report of the new school committee adopted by the school board on Sept. 26, 2011, set the attendance boundaries for the school "beginning from the corner of Church St. and Ashland Ave., west to McCormick Blvd., north to Green Bay Rd., south to Emerson St., west to Ashland and south to Church St."

      That includes western portions of the 2nd and 5th wards.

      According to the committee report, it would have created a student population that was 63 percent black and 30 percent Hispanic, "demographics that reflect the neighborhood composition."

      You can find the report in the meeting packet for that meeting.

      — Bill

      1. Not the issue
        All this tangential discussion of other issues, i.e. a fifth ward school, distracts from the matter at hand. And by the way, we ALL send our children to a 5th ward school: ETHS.

      2. Observation after observing

        I took the time to watch every minute of the last several 202 board meetings.

        Metz and the other Sills supporters made a principled argument, in my opinion. The points that there was precedent and that Sills garnered the most voter support is compelling. While I don't agree with the position, I did not see where the three board members ever presented an argument publicly to dissuade the three Sills supporters from what they represented was standing with the decision of the electorate.

        With two of the three who voted no on Sills it looked to be a simple matter of not agreeing with Sills' politics and where her vote was likely to fall on key splinter issues like earned honors. Versus whether or not she was qualified. The third no on Sills looked to be apolitical and rooted firmly in the orthodoxy of the process.

        It's true that there were several highly qualified candidates. I dare say several far more qualified than some sitting on the board. From those voting no I would have liked to hear a strong argument on going against the electorate and it never came. Saying that there are strong candidates does not justify going against the will of the electorate. People who pay money to print up and display lawn signs so they can win a seat on the school board should understand this. It would have been a simple argument to make and might be revealing that it was never made.

        If I voted no on Sills I would have made such an argument. I then would have made a series of motions to vote on every other candidate one at a time. 

        While the board president was certainly testy in the special board meeting I did not find her behavior to be unacceptable. Frankly, she didn't say a whole lot.

         

        1. “No” votes on Sills DID “stand with decision of the electorate”
          Did “Still Anonymous” vote in the same election I did? He says that the three board members who voted against putting Anne Sills on the board failed to “stand with the decision of the electorate” and went “against the electorate.” It looks to me like those three board members followed exactly the decision of the electorate. Just like the electorate, they decided Ms. Sills should not be on the board. She was voted down by both.

          1. JA

            JA

            It is not my position that the three who voted no failed to "stand with the decision of the electorate." That is, however, the argument made by the three pro Sills votes. If the electorate were asked to vote the current slate it is conceivable that Sills would have finished somewhere in the middle.

            My point, perhaps made feebly, is that based on the tape two of the three no votes looked dead set against Sills regardless.  

            I don't agree with your argument that the electorate decided that Sills did not belong on the board. The electorate wasn't asked to vote against anyone. But that would have been a stronger argument than any they made publicly at the special board meeting.

            The only way to legitimately get past the deadlock is to discredit the argument. That did not happen. Saying "we have an impressive slate of candidates" is not justification for overturning the wishes of the electorate". Criticizing the board president and saying the process wasn't followed or saying only XX minutes was spent discussing candidates does not get past the electorate argument.

            Three people called for the extraordinary board meeting and it is my opinion the meeting could have been productive and not just political if better arguments were made. Absent that, the meeting was grandstanding.

          2. The board president stifled discussion

            The board president  (Savage-Williams) stifled discussion at the meeting as much as she possibly could.  Amazingly, she boldly asserted that she might use her gavel for the first time and in fact she did.  She interrupted Doug Holt as he was discussing some of the issues you mention and kept asking for a motion and asserting that any talk must strictly adhere to the agenda.  You can certainly say very obvious points about Anne Sills should have been made but the board president was intent on stifling any such discussion.  So again, let's be frank about where the bad faith lies

        2. It was not a principled

          It was not a principled argument.  There is no precedent for appointing someone simply because they were the runner-up in the last election.  And that is especially true here because more people walked into the voting booth and decided NOT to vote for Anne Sills.  Their decision to vote for others and not Anne is a right equal to anyone's affirmative vote.  Significantly, the process laid out by the Illinois Association of School Boards and adopted by the 202 board rejects the notion that past elections are relevant.  Rather, the process is to accept applications, interview applicants following the guideline questios laid out in the board policy (none of which relate to past elections), and then choose from that field of applicants.   Metz, Savage-Williams, and Parsons are rejecting this adopted process and making the false "will of the people" argument.   It is unprincipled to reject your own policy, which is what you're doing if you argue — contrary to policy — that the last election is the only relevant fact.  As for arguments on other candidates, you might not have been listening close enough.  That was reserved for closed sessions and Savage-Williams reminded everyone not to discuss individuals.  And, as was pointed out by Livingston (I believe), there was no point in making motions in favor of other candidates if Metz, Savage-Williams and Parsons would not budge from their position that they'd only back Anne Sills.  That would be an obvious waste of time as was also pointed out.  

          1. It would have been simple to

            It would have been simple to then state that what they expressed as principled was in truth unprincipled and wrongly interprets the clear wishes of the electorate. In addition, when Metz and another stated that there was precedent, they should have been prepared with facts and explained to the public that no such precedent existed.

            Perhaps they made those arguments in closed session. They did not make those arguments in open session. They looked to be grandstanding. And I disagree on the value and merit of motions in favor of other candidates. If, as you say, they were opposed to anyone but Sills, I would have made them demonstrate that to the public. That would have been highly valuable.

            And so it was left that those supportive of Sills appear to be standing on principle. Wrongly, perhaps, but on principle. A much better job could have been done altering that perception.

        3. Will of the Electorate?

          The "Will of the electorate" is to not have Anne Sills on the board of D202. In the most recent election, Anne received 2,095 votes, or 19% of the votes. Yes, those voters wanted to elect her, and that's how a democracy works – every vote counts. However, 81% of voters DID NOT vote for her. So that's the "Will of the Electorate." Another way to look at the results is to say that Anne only received 4% of the votes of registered voters in D202, or said another way, 96% of registered voters DID NOT vote for Anne Sills. And the last time Anne Sills ran a campaign for a board seat on D65, she lost. Another consideration is that Anne Sills did not graduate from college – she didn't receive a degree from Columbia College. Did she graduate from Kendall College? While having a college degree isn't a prerequisite for D202, most of the other 13 candidates not only have a college degree, but they also hold advanced degrees. And they have distinguished themselves in their careers.  As a reminder, ETHS is an educational institution, and prides itself on its College and Career readiness focus. Do board members think it's important to have a college degree? I guess we'll have to wait until the next election since Metz, Parsons, and Williams declined to discuss the criteria they value in the board appointee.

          1. She didn’t win a seat and the

            She didn't win a seat and the election was not to determine who should fill a board seat if one were to open up before the next election. Just like the election did not ask "who should NOT serve on the board." An argument was being made and not responded to, at least not in open session. I think, though, that Livingston came closest two meetings ago. It is now, potentially, a problem for the community that the point/principle wasn't argued publicly. Or well.

            Williams had an effective response to the question about criteria or characteristics when she stated that several candidates asked the board in closed session interviews what they were looking for and only cursory responses were given. 

            Three board members called for the special session. Their execution was underwhelming. It was a lazy effort.

  11. What is the cause of the split?

    It evident that there is 3-3 split within the school board. Can anyone tell me what the nature of the split is? What are the ideological positions that each side is committed to?

    1. A matter of conjecture

      One can only conjecture, and we do not print conjecture, but based upon their public statements, the “pro-Sills” contingent contends that Sills has a credible volunteer experience with the schools and has faced the electorate in the most recent campaign, an experience that has taught her a great deal about the issues facing the board and about how parents, in particular, feel about those issues.

      The “pro-other” contingent contends that there are many other applicants with outstanding educational and volunteer credentials that ought to be given consideration by the board as well.

    2. My way or the highway

      The nature of the split is not important as people can be so firm in their beliefs that they are deaf to reason.  The solution is to change the law so that the voters decide who should replace a board member.  Now let 's call it quits on this civic show of our collective stupidity.

  12. Not the Issue

    Leslie Wenzel you are absolutely right and I apologize for getting off point. But for the record, ETHS is in the 2nd Ward.

  13. “It’s politics and politics is a full contact-sport”

    Quote from ETHS Board Vice President, Mark Metz at July 1 D202 meeting.

    I didn’t realize that a school board member was a “political” position. Maybe I’m naïve, but I thought school board members should be focused on ensuring that our tax dollars are wisely spent and that the Superintendent is implementing sound educational policies.

    If you want to be political, run for city council, state representative or another political office.

    ETHS represents over 25% of our Evanston property tax bill.

    So, as you review your recent property tax bill this weekend, ask yourself if this is the type of school board leadership you expect and desire? Do you want board members to follow written and adopted policies or do you want them to ignore rules and policies so it fits their personal views? Is transparency important? Do you have confidence that your tax dollars are being used in the most effective way to educate all children of Evanston, providing proper oversight of the Superintendent and ETHS?

    Are programs at ETHS being prudently monitored and evaluated so we know if they are meeting their stated objective?  If not, how can they be improved to help all kids?

    Does the board represent the interests of the community or are board members pursuing a personal, political agenda?

    I appreciate the challenges our schools face in trying to educate all students to realize their potential, but let’s have our educational institutions focus on education, and our political institutions focus on politics.

    1. The election

      Since many have brought up the last election, I think the voters as a group spoke very clearly. There was not a majority of voters who wanted that entire ticket elected, and there were de-facto tickets in that 202 race. That's why Sills didn't win the first time around, and that's why someone else should be selected to fill the empty seat. This board needs a swing voter.

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