As parents prepare to send their students back to school in less than a month’s time, the school board at District 209 has set in motion a process that could bring the fifth high school superintendent to Proviso Township in only two years. The revolving door has some in the district worried about the health of the learning and working environment, but several educators insisted those issues will not bleed into their focus on classroom achievement.
Board member Robert Cox cast a minority vote not to suspend Superintendent Stan Fields from his job on July 30, and said it’s understandable if teachers are frustrated by the district’s apparent lack of direction. Should Fields ultimately be fired, Cox said, it would erase 11 months of progress.
“I think that’s an appropriate reaction for anybody watching,” Cox said. “We’re still doing things that are mysterious and ill advised. We’ve got school opening in a couple weeks.”
Students will be returning to class at the Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park on Aug. 10. Classes will resume at East and West high schools on Aug. 20.
In the meantime, the district is “back at square one,” Cox said, and over the next month he will consider resigning his seat. Cox is roughly four months into a four-year term and recently issued public statements reaffirming his commitment to the post.
This month marks the start of the math and science academy’s third academic year as the inaugural freshman class begins its junior year. This will also be the first full year with Principal Ed Moyer at the helm. Moyer said parents can be assured the year will begin without the chaos of the 2006-07 school year when instruction was interrupted by a shortage of text books and scheduling problems, followed by the dismissal of former principals Melvin Berry and Richard Bryant.
Moyer stated his resolve to continue those initiatives installed under Fields, but said he is concerned that the staff’s enthusiasm will be dampened. More than half of the teaching staff this year is new, Moyer said, and they’ve suddenly been thrust into an unstable environment.
“People are concerned,” Moyer said. “We do not want to lose our momentum. We will control what we can control.”
Moyer was brought back into the district by Fields in November of last year to replace the former building administrators. Previously, Moyer worked to open the magnet school in 2005. Should Fields be terminated, Moyer said he is committed to the district.
“I have no intention of going anywhere,” Moyer said. “It is a blow to me personally because I do feel a strong sense of allegiance to Mr. Fields. But I’m focused on the kids and I’m here for the kids.”
At Proviso East in Maywood, Principal Milton Patch acknowledged the turnover in the district’s top office, but said his staff has been focused for several years on instituting changes to improve student performance. That effort will continue regardless of leadership changes, Patch said.
“Anytime there’s change it’s difficult, but I’m gonna keep saying the same thing; our focus is on the kids,” Patch said.
At Proviso West in Hillside, Principal Alexis Wallace declined to comment on the upcoming school year and said she needed to speak with legal counsel first. She refused to clarify those issues for which she needed legal advice.
Phone calls to board members Sue Henry, Robin Foreman and Dan Adams were not returned.
The suspension of Fields continues a disorderly trend for District 209’s top office.
In August of 2005, school board members were sharply divided over the firing of former superintendent Greg Jackson. On an interim basis Robert Libka was given the nod to hold the superintendent’s position while the hiring process began. However, state and regional education offices pressured the school board to remove Libka because he lacked the proper certification. Phylistine Murphy became the district’s next interim superintendent before Fields was hired in August of 2006.
Now with Fields at least temporarily out of the picture, Libka is again serving as the interim superintendent. He has since obtained those certifications that had previously prompted his removal.