Politics, power, ego, money, or educational failure may be the stimulus for the termination of the Superintendent in Proviso Township High Schools District 209 on July 21, 2005.
With a room full of school employees instead of community taxpayers, several people gave me opinions about the educational distress, political mess in District 209. How was this decision in the best interests of students and taxpayers?
I heard students mentioned four times. The Board President voted “Students 1st aye”. A school administrator said this will not help students, and no board meeting has been in the best interests of students in years. A board member echoed the Board President’s prepared statement that this will improve the education of the students. Another board member stated that this was typical politics and nothing to do with kids.
How does politically boycotting a regularly scheduled board meeting by four board members improve the education of the students? The 59 items on the cancelled agenda, which include spending about $5 million on salaries (mostly non-teaching salaries) and about $5 million in a contract buyouts and litigation, do not help children.
The power struggle between the Superintendent, Board President, and Board members cannot be beneficial. The Superintendent stated the Board President did not share his views, his contract is valid, and his attorney will argue the specifics. Three board members opposed the actions. The abrupt procedures, lack of discussion, inappropriate responses, and hostile tone were unprofessional.
To see two black men unable to agree to disagree and five black people allow a white man without a superintendent endorsement to assume the leadership position for a school district with predominately black students is embarrassing. Though a highly qualified candidate, regardless of race, might be successful, with about 900 superintendents and only a few of them black, it is a disservice to our students.
Proviso Township taxpayers should be distressed by the amount of money District 209 is spending on salaries and litigation. The termination of the Superintendent based on the Illinois School Code is without merit, as superintendents would normally be terminated because they do not meet the goals of a multiyear performance contract.
The termination of the Superintendent’s contract due to educational failure is systemic. The state has set unrealistic goals, and the District has hired unqualified administrators. How can an educational committee of the same district employees who have led our students to failure be rewarded with increased salaries and promotions? How will these same people lead students to improved academic achievement?
The educational distress is causing our students to suffer socially, emotionally, and academically. The political mess is creating an unpleasant and difficult situation for taxpayers. What was the significance of the audience comment on District finances and the superintendent’s new office from a person employed by a parent organization in Chicago? Why are people who have given and received political contributions or hold political offices such as mayor and trustee infiltrating the schools?
Whether the Superintendent was terminated due to politics, power, ego, money, or educational failure, it is clear that District 209 students are in trouble. District 209 cannot be committed to putting students first by hiring unqualified people and indulging in blatant political patronage.
A simple, effective solution in the best interests of students would be to hire a righteous visionary educational leader, without any political connections, to empower each individual child and adult to expect and achieve excellence. The district needs someone who can identify student and staff strengths and concerns, provide resources to enhance their strength, and frequently monitor and adjust for optimal performance. Our human resources are our most precious commodities, and we must support people with love, kindness, collaboration, and compromise.
All of the Proviso Township taxpayers, voters, and residents must work together to eliminate the political stronghold on our schools and demand accountability from students, staff, and board members to improve student’s academic achievement and community success.