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Transparency is priority for 3 new H-F High board members

Steve Anderson, Annette Bannon and Beth Larocca each pledge the Homewood-Flossmoor High School community will have transparency in all board dealings.
On Tuesday, April 4, they defeated three incumbents – Richard Lites, Gerald Pauling and Andy Lindstrom – and challenger Eric Grant in a seven-way race for three four-year terms on the District 233 school board.
“I think obviously voters wanted something different. They wanted new blood. Not just one, not two but three new members,” Larocca said on election night.
“I think there’s an opportunity to be transparent on communication and how we bring the community in to work with the administration and the staff to plan our future and execute on that plan,” said Anderson, the top vote-getter with 3,311 votes.
Larocca came in second with 3,016 votes, and Bannon had 2,835 votes.
“Communication and transparency is what I think the community wants most,” said Bannon, who ran as a team with Larocca. The pair met at one of the public meetings following the school board’s decision in June 2016 to fire the H-F principal.
“I am encouraged by the level of support HF Proud (the incumbent team) garnered in the election, thanks to our many great friends across the H-F community,” Pauling said Wednesday.  
But he also pointed to the lack of minority representation on the new board.
“I am concerned by the lack of diversity that our school board now reflects,” he said. “We have lost ground in an important respect, and I hope we regain it in the next election cycle.”
For months, the community was in an upheaval over the board’s decision. Many asked for answers on why the board fired one of the district’s top administrators, but board members said they couldn’t discuss the reason because of personnel rules.
Bannon said the board’s action and the resignation of board member David Mayer after the decision “got my attention … that’s what made me start going to board meetings, and I would see how (board) responses were made.”
Lites, the school board president, said there were falsehoods, misinformation and negative comments about board actions, board members and H-F staff presented at the meetings, but he tried to keep the decorum intact.
“I didn’t want those proceedings to develop into something more ugly,” he said. “We were representing the community at-large and you don’t want to exacerbate feelings.”
Lindstrom concurred saying, “They hide behind false things about this high school. This school has so much to be proud of.”
“I don’t think we’ve talked (H-F) down. I think we’ve said that it’s great. We just think it can be better,” Larocca responded.
After the board’s initial actions on the principal, residents started questioning other decisions. Larocca and Bannon argued the school wasn’t doing enough to raise test scores. They also asked about hiring practices and spending decisions.
Larocca said once she is on the board, “I think we need to show responsibility, that with the money we are spending we are getting the results we should.”
Anderson believes his qualifications  10 years on the Homewood District 153 school board and his community leadership — made him the right candidate. 
“I plan to look forward, and honestly, to improve the relationship with the community and rebuild the trust. I think that starts with communications. I keep going back to that, but I really do believe it. It’s what we’ve lived in (district) 153 my entire tenure there and I think that’s where it all starts,” Anderson said.
Lites, who served 20 years on the board, said Wednesday he accepts the outcome of this election and wishes the new team the best, adding he will work for a smooth transition.
Pauling was appointed to the board in 2012 and ran unopposed for a seat in 2013. The attorney had served as chair of the Personnel Committee that worked with a search firm and conducted interviews with candidates for the principal’s job. The board hired Jerry Anderson who will become principal on July 1.
Lites, Pauling and Lindstrom said they are proud of all that H-F is doing for its students, and said they will always support the high school and its efforts. 
Lites hopes the new board will assess how well things work at H-F and the positive interactions between the school board and staff before changes are made.
Bannon and Larocca say they will be looking at various aspects of the school’s operations.
“We want to make sure the school remains strong. It’s so important to the community and our property values,” Bannon said.

R.L. Anderson contributed to this story.

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