First posted 12/18/2008 4:06 p.m.
The vice president of the District 91 school board, Sean Blaylock, is contemplating a run to serve on the school board of the community’s much-maligned high school district. He said he expects to make a decision in the coming weeks.
Proviso Township High School District 209 is not meeting its obligations in the classroom or in its business ledgers, said Blaylock, and many of the incumbents will need to be replaced before change can occur. Over the last several months, Blaylock has been spotted quietly attending meetings of the District 209 board.
“We have an organization in our community that is failing its purpose and in doing so is cheating our kids out of a public education and cheating our taxpayers out of their money,” Blaylock said.
Blaylock is currently serving a four-year term on the District 91 board, and isn’t up for re-election until 2011. Should he make a successful push for a spot in District 209, Blaylock would be forced to vacate his seat in District 91.
School board elections will be held in April 2009.
Forest Park is one of 10 communities in the township that feeds students and tax money to District 209. A history of poor academic achievement in the high school district prompts many village parents to enroll their children elsewhere. According to Blaylock, any family following their child’s education in District 91 should be just as concerned with education in District 209.
“I think, but I hope I’m wrong, that [parents] plan to throw their hands up and budget for private school, or plan to move,” Blaylock said.
In deciding whether to run for a seat in District 209, Blaylock said he’s looking for like-minded township residents to possibly form a slate. Though Blaylock isn’t necessarily opposed to running by himself, one person’s ability to effect change may be limited given the board’s political and acrimonious nature. He declined to comment on potential candidates with whom he has spoken.
State Rep. Karen Yarbrough, 7th-District, is a fierce rival of both District 209 board President Chris Welch and one of Welch’s staunchest allies, Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore. Yarbrough confirmed that she has met with Blaylock and others from Forest Park who are “interested in schools.”
Yarbrough said Blaylock would be a strong candidate for the school board, but she is not getting involved in assembling any slates. In addition to her position in the House, Yarbrough also serves as the Proviso Township Democratic Organization committeeman. Any support she might offer from that position would be “technical” in nature, said Yarbrough, such as circulating petitions and other logistics.
“I definitely am interested in something happening in 209,” Yarbrough said.
Forest Park Commissioner Rory Hoskins has been working to connect Blaylock with political players in the township in preparation for a possible run. The two began discussing Blaylock’s candidacy several months ago as casual talks on education and the community in general evolved. Both men have children in Forest Park’s public schools and volunteer with various youth-related agencies.
“I know a lot of people in Forest Park are just not happy with what they’re seeing in 209,” Hoskins said.
Strategically, Hoskins said it makes sense for Blaylock to connect with running mates from other township communities because board members are elected at-large. He pointed to Maywood and Bellwood as having important populations in the race.
“Sean’s a friend,” Hoskins said. “I’m a stakeholder in the public school system. I guess you could call me an informal advisor.”
Blaylock said he is not entirely comfortable with potentially leaving his District 91 term unfulfilled, however, he is certain that the schools are in a good position. Recent priorities in Forest Park included hiring a superintendent, identifying goals for the board and updating the curriculum. Those tasks are either completed or in the works.
Meanwhile, the high schools have suffered from administrative turnover and are being led by a school board that lacks cohesion, he said. The revolving door to the superintendent’s office means the school board is either repeating its mistakes or using the wrong criteria in hiring administrators, said Blaylock.
“That says more about the school board than it does about any superintendent,” Blaylock said.
In District 209, board members Daniel Adams, Sue Henry, Brian Cross and Welch, the president, are up for re-election.
“In my personal opinion, anybody that’s been on that board for more than four years … hasn’t helped the solution-hasn’t helped the situation,” Blaylock said.
Forest Park currently has one resident on the board in District 209, Robert Cox. Cox said he has not discussed the upcoming election with Blaylock or any other potential candidates.