The building manager at Proviso Math and Science Academy has brought a lawsuit in federal court against the Illinois State Board of Education and the Proviso Township High School District 209 Financial Oversight Panel.

Ron Anderson, a close friend, political ally and best man at the wedding of Board President Emanuel “Chris” Welch, sued the district’s oversight panel alleging that the Financial Oversight Panel discriminated against him because of his race and political affiliations.

According to the suit, which was filed in August and had a status hearing in mid-October, Anderson claims that the Finance Oversight Panel violated his civil rights and his First Amendment right to free association when he was given a lower salary for his job as building manager of the 818-student high school than his predecessor Larry Simone.

According to the suit, the members of the finance panel “targeted him because of his race as well as his perceived relationship with Christopher Welch.”

The suit says building managers at the district’s other two high schools are white men, who earn more than $100,000 per year. Anderson earns around $90,000.

Anderson had been night manager for PMSA, according to the suit. When Simone retired in 2009, Anderson became interim building manager, and eventually was recommended for building manager by Supt. Nettie Collins-Hart.

According to the suit, the Finance Oversight Panel then voted to reduce the salary of the PMSA building manager from more than $106,000 to $90,000. At the same time, the FOP voted to eliminate the position of night manager for PMSA, cutting the budget by $80,000.

The suit alleges the FOP members James Popernik, Craig Shilling and Meri Lee McCracken rejected Anderson’s recommended salary because of his race and retaliated against him for his “perceived political association.”

Anderson also brought a complaint with similar allegations to the Illinois Department of Labor over the past year.

The other two building managers oversee schools with student bodies and facilities larger than PMSA. Angelo Calcagno earns $106,290 as building manager at Proviso West, with 2,331 students. Fred Gianneschi is building manager at Proviso East with 1,924 students also earns $106,290. Both are white.

Both also have ties to Chris Welch. Calcagno donated a total of $550 to Welch’s campaigns and Gianneschi contributed $200 in 2011.

Anderson was filmed by Chicago TV news cameras in December 2011 driving a D209 school vehicle and delivering D209 employees to check signatures on an opponent’s petitions at the Daley Center during Welch’s primary campaign for 7th District Rep.

Anderson is being represented by Saulter Tarver, LLP of Chicago.

“Our position is clear –we believe that Mr. Anderson experienced discrimination not only based upon his race but based upon political affiliation,” said lawyer Curtis Tarver II. “We believe those named in the complaint are justifiably named and were the source of the discrimination.”

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...