The shame of Proviso's high schools

Opinion

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We have written so many editorials over so many years suggesting the Proviso high school district has reached new lows. Now we salute this failed, forsaken, morally bankrupt school district for its capacity to surprise us. Clearly no one there knows where bottom is.

On our Web site last week we first reported that Chris Welch, president of the school board, had convinced his compliant board colleagues to shell out $22,000 in taxpayer money to pay Welch's personal legal fees in a defamation suit bought by the district's previous law firm.

Be clear. This suit has nothing whatsoever to do with the school district. The suit resulted from Welch allegedly posting slanderous comments about the fired lawyers on an Internet blog. He was spreading freelance venom. And the law firm, Odelson & Sterk, did what vilified, politicized lawyers do. They filed suit. Welch, himself a politically connected lawyer with school districts as clients, can't be surprised he was sued.

Yet we are surprised, as noted above, that even Chris Welch would have the audacity to expect taxpayers to pay the legal fees tied to his loose tongue. In past days, we might have been stunned that the school board majority could roll over so submissively and add this cost to their atrocious deficit. But no more.

Even the Better Government Association's executive director, contacted by the Review, described himself as "a little speechless" after hearing a reporter's explanation of this absurd situation. "I've seen a lot of strange things at the BGA, but this is new territory," said Jay Stewart. When your brand of corruption leaves a good government advocacy group in Chicago speechless, then, you've accomplished something.

Into the swirling vat of misfeasance that is District 209, the school board also plopped a newly minted superintendent last week. Welcome to the horror show, Nettie Collins-Hart. What you have done to deserve this we can hardly imagine. This district chews up superintendents as sport. In our coverage this week, we quote you as saying, "When I met with that board, I could hear the intensity of their hearts and their souls and what they want for the children."

Honestly, Ms. Collins-Hart, we never hear this school board talk about children. And that is simply the most damning charge we can make. This school district is at or near the bottom of all high schools in Illinois in test scores. Its finances are ruinous. Its students are regularly murdered. And the school board never talks about children.

Welcome to Proviso.

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