'This board has a history and we need to separate ourselves from that." That's what Rodney Alexander, a new member of the District 209 school board, said last month as the board held an intense debate over a new and tougher policy prohibiting nepotism in hiring.
Alexander could not be more on point. On the long list of wrongs needing correction in the Proviso Township High Schools, determinedly, forcefully stomping out the taint of nepotism is a high priority. We're encouraged that the board's policy committee, led by Ned Wagner, brought this proposal forward.
We are very disappointed that board President Theresa Kelly and newly elected member Della Patterson argued in favor of the board's current and inadequate nepotism policy. What is currently on the books is more a guide to gaming the hiring process to allow nepotism than it is a ban on this pernicious practice.
This school board, over the past two elections, was reconstituted by voters precisely to wipe the many decades of pure political stench from the district. That former board president and current state Rep. Chris Welch had multiple family members on the district's payroll was plain-faced evidence of who this district was being run to benefit. It wasn't students. It wasn't taxpayers. It was for the benefit of politically motivated school board members who worked to hire relatives and pals and steer business to political hacks.
Kelly and Patterson know that. They railed against Welch and his political ways. And now that they have the reins, it is incumbent on them to eradicate politics and favoritism from D209.
Their argument at the board table that tougher limits on hiring relatives and business associates is an effort to limit opportunities for community members to be hired at Proviso makes little sense. As Alexander noted, "The only kids we're talking about discouraging from working here are ours while we're board members."
If you're local, qualified and not related to a board member or district administrator, we'd support bonus points in any hiring process. Hiring local is a positive effort. Hiring your nephew is the corrupt business-as-usual that Proviso voters so thoroughly rejected these past two years.