Evanston Township High School District 202 board members would be required to seek permission to share information with outside parties if a proposed resolution is adopted Monday night.
At last month’s meeting, Board President Pat Savage-Williams was critical of veteran member Jonathan Baum for sharing an internal memo to the board from Superintendent Eric Witherspoon with a third party concerning an issue with the school newspaper, The Evanstonian.
Savage-Williams said that such memoes ought to be considered confidential and should not be released to non-board members. Her position was not shared by some of the other board members.
The resolution that is coming up for a vote Monday night would ensure the confidentiality of email or other written communication from the superintendent or board president unless the member either obtains permission from the author, or, in special circumstances, either seeks guidance or informs the board president, superintendent, or board attorney before sharing the communication with a third party.
The public portion of Monday’s board meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Room N112 of the high school, at 1600 Dodge Ave.
Following is the complete text of the document titled “Resolution Regarding Superintendent and Board Communications”:
WHEREAS, the Evanston High School District 202 Board of Education consists of seven members, the Board’s powers and duties include the authority to adopt, enforce, and monitor all policies for the management and governance of the District,
WHEREAS, as stated in the Board member oath of office prescribed by the School Code, a Board member has no legal authority as an individual, and
WHEREAS, the Board has adopted the Board Member Code of Conduct as district policy 2:82, and
WHEREAS, each Board member pledges to do his or her utmost to represent the public interest in education by adhering to the standards and principles in the Code of Conduct, and
WHEREAS, the Board has established and approved Board Agreements that it revisits and updates annually, and
WHEREAS, the Board, its individual members and the superintendent commit individually and collectively to stand by these agreements, and
WHEREAS, Board members and the superintendent recognize that a relationship which encompasses mutual trust, support, and cooperation is essential to the smooth and effective operation of the District, and
WHEREAS, Board members and the superintendent reaffirm a “no surprises” approach to business—during or between meetings—as a sign of respect for all participants and the process and recognize that this approach is necessary for minimizing legal liability, and
WHEREAS, the Board and superintendent function most effectively and establish trust by communicating with integrity and honesty, and
WHEREAS, it is vitally important to the health of the organization that the superintendent and Board president be able to communicate with confidence directly with the Board, and
WHEREAS, the Board expects and is most effective when there is open, confidential, timely and forthright communication from the Board president and the superintendent,
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT when the superintendent or Board president communicates district information exclusively to the Board and/or other School District administrators in an email or other written communication, Board members shall adhere to the following practices:
1. Assume the communication is confidential unless it states otherwise; and
2. Maintain the confidentiality of the communication unless: a. The author of the communication grants consent to the Board member to share the communication with a specific third party; or
b. Extraordinary circumstances exist, and the Board member reasonably believes that there is a legal obligation or it is in the best interest of the School District to share the communication with a third party and the author is unlikely to consent to release of the communication. In such a case, the Board member shall, unless legally prohibited, first seek guidance and/or inform the Board president, superintendent, or Board attorney prior to sharing the communication with a third party.