The Proviso High School District 209 board of education will meet today to vote on the hiring of a new superintendent for the district.

The special meeting will take place at 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the Proviso Math and Science Academy, located at 8601 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Forest Park.

On Monday July 31, the board met in closed session to interview three final candidates, one of whom, sources say, was current Chief Education Officer Robert Libka. Though the agenda for that meeting gave the board the option of voting on a new hire, no decisions were made.

The direction of the district’s leadership has been the primary issue of contention for the divided board since July 2005, when the board voted 4-3 to fire former Superintendent Greg Jackson. In another 4-3 vote, they hired Libka as his replacement.

Soon after, when Cook County Regional Superintendent Robert Ingraffia declared that Libka did not have the certification necessary to serve as superintendent, the new position of Chief Education Officer was created for Libka.

Phylistine Murphy, who had been hired at the same time as Libka as the district’s assistant superintendent of operations and technology, was made interim superintendent.

At this point, information is scarce concerning the direction the board will take.

“I just hope everyone will do the right thing for the children. I’m staying optimistic,” said board member Theresa Kelly. Kelly, along with board members Charles Flowers and Gary Marine, voted against both firing Jackson and hiring Libka last year.

Kelly and Flowers have both indicated concerns that the search and interview process was merely a charade, and the decision had already been made by the majority of the board to hire Libka, who served as the district’s director of auxiliary programs, among other jobs with the district, before last year’s promotions. Board president Chris Welch has categorically denied these allegations.

Welch could not be reached for comment for this story.

The school district paid the Bickert Group, a firm specializing in nationwide superintendent searches, 4,500 to conduct a search for its new superintendent.

The group conducted interviews and surveys involving focus group made up of District 209 staff and parents identified six candidates for the board to interview, and the board narrowed the field down to three.

Kelly said she believed that once a new superintendent is hired, the position of Chief Education Officer will be eliminated. “I’m under the impression that we’d be going back to the typical setup,” she said. Welch has also said in the past that the district would likely eliminate the position once a superintendent is hired, but has declined to make definitive guarantees.