DARIEN, IL – A couple of Hinsdale High School District 86 board members on Thursday questioned a proposal to increase the board president’s powers in the district’s communications with its attorney.

“I don’t want to create something to make it difficult for the superintendent to do their job in the normal course of business,” member Terri Walker said at a board meeting.

Meanwhile, a former board president issued a statement shortly before the meeting saying it was an example of the board’s desire for “more and more micromanagement” of the district’s day-to-day operations.

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Under the current policy, the superintendent, his or her designee, and the board president are each authorized to confer with the attorney.

Under the proposal, the superintendent must notify the president when consulting with the attorney.

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Also, the policy would require the attorney to work with the superintendent to keep the board president informed of the attorney’s legal advice.

The proposal is a departure from what the state school board association recommends. Most districts’ policies closely resemble the association’s suggested language.

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In the debate, board President Catherine Greenspon said the superintendent and his or her designee would still have the power to consult the attorney.

“I’m not sure if it’s an insurmountable hurdle to copy the board president in an email,” she said. “It’s just making sure we’re informed.”

Walker said the requirement may create more hurdles for the superintendent. Bus she said she did not object to keeping the board informed.

Member Asma Akhras also questioned the policy. She said the requirement was unnecessary because the superintendent already had the authority to consult with the lawyer.

Member Heather Kartsounes backed the idea. She said the board must approve legal bills, so the requirement to consult with the board president would streamline communications.

“There is nothing in this policy to restrain or stifle the superintendent to confer with the board attorney,” said Kartsounes, a lawyer herself. “It’s just a notification provision.”

The board is expected to vote on the policy at a later meeting.

In an email to the board, former board President Erik Held, who left last year, said board members are regularly overreaching their authority.

“They desire more and more micromanagement and direct responsibility of the day-to-day District operations,” Held said. “That is well beyond your purview, and inserting the president at all times between the superintendent and district attorney is a glaring example of this.”

The superintendent and assistant superintendents, Held said, contact the district’s law firm for confidential student-related concerns.

“I personally blocked more than a few requests from board members who wanted to know more and more student information, including going to attorneys, and in the process they would be uncovering student-identified information,” Held said.

Based on his experience, he said he lacked the confidence that the policy would not be abused.

“You guys are well beyond your mandate and authority, and we in the district want the administrative and educational professionals to run the district. Not activist board members,” he said.

In the board discussion, member Peggy James said the proposed policy was consistent with state law. The district would follow laws for student privacy, she said.

Sitting in the audience was Michael Lach, who is taking the helm as superintendent Monday. Lach has not commented on issues during meetings, which he has attended for months.

In January, the district changed its main law firm to Chicago-based Robbins Schwartz. Legal bills have skyrocketed 43 percent this budget year, to $588,398, 43 percent above the previous year, according to district records.

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