Last Friday I made the principal of Proviso West High School cry at a press conference. Am I a sadist for enjoying it?
District 209 had called a press conference to sign the new teacher contract. During the question and answer period I asked how much the new contract would cost taxpayers. Based on the specifics provided by the president of the teachers union the contract seemed quite generous, if not extravagant.
School board president Chris Welch was playing media hog even though he claimed he wasn’t directly involved in the negotiations. Welch kept evading the questions about how much the contract would cost taxpayers. On the third or fourth ask I turned the question around and asked, “Are you saying you signed a contract without knowing the cost to the district?”
After the last question Alexis Wallace, Welch’s godmother and principal of Proviso West”not that the Welch led district practices nepotism”made a beeline to me. She asked me in an accusatory tone if I had written on my blog about the students with high ACT scores at her school.
Welch’s supporters are like hardcore Bush supporters. Bush supporters want the media to prioritize GIs painting an Iraqi school over dozens killed in bombings on the same day. Welch supporters want the media to prioritize five students passing AP tests over the hundreds slipping through the cracks while Welch makes his cronies rich.
I responded to Wallace by saying the numbers she had presented at the last school board meeting weren’t impressive. Less than half of Proviso West students scored above the national average.
“You’re a racist,” she responded.
“Would you repeat that in front of a witness?” I asked.
When I returned with a local reporter, Wallace had a change of heart. She wouldn’t repeat her name calling, but she wouldn’t take it back or deny it either. I raised my voice and told her she couldn’t call me a “racist”. I intended to embarrass her since she was behaving in a childish manner.
A few minutes later I was leaving and saw Wallace sitting on a bench in the hallway. She was crying and gasping for air like she was having a panic attack. She was saying through her sobs, “He was a man… yelling at me.”
If D209 staff want to be treated like professionals they need to act like professionals. Each staff member needs to decide if s/he is a professional who is primarily loyal to District 209 (students & taxpayers) or if s/he is a cog in the political patronage machine controlled by Democratic Committeeman Eugene Moore and his lieutenant Chris Welch.
How should the public distinguish between the two types of staff? “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16)
What kind of fruits were on display Friday?
Incompetence, deception, whining, dishonor and stupidity.
Why hold a press conference to announce a new contract with teachers without having information about said contract?
Here’s what I would have provided for the media:
• A matrix explaining the differences between the old and new contracts
• A matrix comparing the D209 contract with other districts
• A copy of the contract for each media outlet
And of course, the district officials should be able to explain the tax ramifications of the new contract. Mona Johnson, the president of the teachers union, could tick off everything her negotiating team got for its constituents, the teachers. Why couldn’t the school board president (Welch), the superintendent (Phylistine Murphy) or the “chief education officer” (Robert Libka) speak to the taxpayers in equivalent detail?
Is it because Welch, Murphy and Libka are incompetent? Or were they trying to hide the bad news from taxpayers?
Did Welch, Murphy and Libka think the media wouldn’t notice they were hiding the cost of the contract? How could they think they would hold a press conference specifically on the new contract and not have the media ask about cost? Do they think local journalists are incompetent?
Welch prefaced his response to one of Review Editor Seth Stern’s questions at the conference with, “All that [the Forest Park Review] does is write negative things [about District 209]…” Welch insults the intelligence of the journalists covering the press conference by having no substance to present and then whining about media coverage.
D209 Board of Education member Theresa Kelly wasn’t happy about the press conference. She said it was unnecessary and complained she wasn’t notified until 10:55 a.m. on Friday. So I asked Libka about notifying board members.
Libka said he was out of town Thursday but left instructions to notify board members on Wednesday. I asked who was responsible for the failure to notify board members until Friday. Libka blamed his subordinates.
I was dumbfounded. Libka was a U.S. Coast Guard officer that graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. I was a Navy officer that graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, so I had the same type of training he did. Blaming his subordinates for not making phone calls is not how he was trained.
Notifying board members”including those opposed to Welch”is Libka’s responsibility. He can delegate the calls, but he’s responsible. He has a mobile phone. He could have called on Thursday to check if the phone calls were made. By not taking responsibility for something he was clearly responsible for, Libka cast doubt on his honor.
And Wallace wanted to brag about having less than half of her students score above the national average. She’s either a numeric illiterate or dishonest.
So, yeah, I got some satisfaction out of making Wallace cry. I’ll get more satisfaction when someone puts an end to her godson neglecting his responsibility to serve the Proviso taxpayers.