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.”
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Pat Savage-Williams and Jonathan Baum
I watched last night. Ms. Savage-William’s refusal to let Mr. Baum respond to her long presentation criticizing him until after all of the other board members had their turns to speak was telling. This was a pre-planned piling on. Mr. Baum admitted that he made some mistakes, but it seems that Ms. Savage-Williams and Mr. Metz used them as an excuse for score-settling. Their criticisms were out of proportion, and Mr. Metz’s remark accusing Mr. Baum of “pettifoggery” was absurdly melodramatic.That kind of over-reaction is the real threat to a well-functioning school board.
Baum Should Resign – He’s Too Good for This Board
Jonathan Baum has served this community for 15 years on the school board of both districts. He is informed, conscientious, and responsive to the community. He is not afraid to ask difficult questions or to run counter to the status quo. The current board president has not demonstrated similar qualities. Her past actions have shown a lack of transparency and lack of concern for all the students in the district. This effort demonstrates that she is also petty and vindictive.
It’s time for Mr. Baum to find greener pastures where he is appreciated. The community deserves what it gets with this board.
No, Savage-Williams should resign
LisaG, I agree with your view of Jonathan Baum’s service on both D65 & D202 school boards over the last 15 years. And we need Jonathan to stay on the board and provide his informed, reasoned and independent views on the D202 school board.
I’d encourage anyone interested in ETHS and school board politics to watch the replay of this discussion.
As Jonathan stated, his career is focused on civil rights and protecting freedom of the press and he has fought and continues to fight for social justice. However, his perspective on the role of a board member differs very clearly from the current board president, Pat Savage-Williams. Jonathan isn’t a cheerleader, and he holds himself accountable to the greater Evanston community.
It was precious to hear Pat talk about “trust” amongst board members and “playing by the same rules.” Let’s replay the tape and look at how she conducted herself when the board replaced Bill Geiger’s open seat. Pat railroaded the process and didn’t build “trust” with other board members or the community. But I guess she has forgotten, or conveniently doesn’t remember. Sound familiar?
No, Pat should resign and Jonathan Baum should stay on the board.
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