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The new Proviso Math and Science Academy celebrated its grand opening with a ceremony on Sept. 15, just over a month after classes began.

District 209 officials, local politicians, members of the community and the school’s students were all on hand to listen to speeches from officials and enjoy musical performances by the district’s students.

Dist. 209 Chief Education Officer Robert Libka was first to address the crowd, and told the students that the school’s administrators were “investing all that we have to help you grow and prosper,” and vowed that the Academy would become one of the state’s top schools.

Rick Bryant, the Math and Science Academy’s director of Teaching and learning, urged students to “remember their humanity.”

“As you hone your intellect and skills, always remember you have a choice of how you will use your gift,” he said. Bryant later called up a group of students, who had been given the task of writing the school’s student pledge, to read the pledge aloud.

He noted at the board meeting the following Monday that the students had reviewed numerous student pledges from all over the world before deciding on the elements they wished to include in their own unique pledge.

Board President Chris Welch said that the opening marked the turning over of a new leaf for Dist. 209. “We’re not where we want to be in Dist. 209, but with the opening of PMSA, we are heading in a new direction,” he said.

Welch repeatedly thanked the district’s attorneys, Otelson and Sterk, for their assistance throughout the project, and also thanked his own boss, James J. Roche of the law firm James J. Roche and Associates.

He indirectly thanked consultant Anthony Bruno, who attended the ceremony, stating that he had received a phone call from a friend one night in 2002 telling him that Loyola Medical Center was looking to sell its administrative building at First Avenue and Roosevelt Road. He said he was stopped at a light in front of the building at the time, and looked over and said, “That is our school.”

Though he didn’t identify Bruno as the friend in the story, Bruno received a “finder’s fee” of about $7,500 for locating the building that would serve as the site of the school.

Some opponents of Welch and his Students First Party expressed concerns that the ceremony was another example of the district acting irresponsible fiscally.

“It was a waste of time and money,” said board member Charles Flowers. “When are we going to stop serenading this building? … I want to know how much it cost.”

Flowers said he was disappointed in the Proviso Township mayors who had not questioned the money that was spent on the school. A budget report released in August showed that the school had exceeded its planned construction cost by over $5 million, leaving just over $1 million in the bank from the $40 million bond that had funded the school’s construction.

The grand opening ceremony was hosted by Paul Davis of Danielle Ashley Communications, the school’s public relations firm.

The keynote speaker was Princess Imonkhuede, a 1998 graduate of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora who went on to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she excelled in both chemical engineering and track and field.

Musical performers included the Proviso Math and Science Academy Choir and the Proviso East Jazz Band.