The dysfunction in the District 209 Proviso High Schools feels like the hurricane pounding the East Coast. It is a perfect storm of incompetence and political calculation, of petty personality plays and profound cynicism about educating students who have pretty much been written off already.
The result is a failed school system that serves the needs of a handful of adults for a political base to launch Springfield careers, a source of nepotism to plant friends and families in cushy public employment, a well-paid layover for administrators who got lost in their career paths or just need a safe-landing place for a time.
Right now this educational wreckage is seen in the district’s profoundly unstable administrative leadership. Over the Chris Welch decade at the top of the elected carnage we’ve seen a revolving door of superintendents, interim superintendents and recycled superintendents. Principals rise and fall within the district’s three high schools like Whack-a-Moles at the fun fair.
This month we have the mid-year exit of a financial manager who lasted just more than one year. On her way out the door to another school finance job, Romanier Polley focused her ire on the sitting superintendent. This is not the norm in the insular world of school administrators where seldom is heard a discouraging word since you never know when you’ll need a recommendation.
So how does this situation ever get better? How do black and Hispanic kids coming up out of Maywood and Melrose ever stand a chance to actually get an education in this perverse school district?
There are two ways and one of them, folks, is going to take some actual effort by you the voter, the potential candidate for office.
But first here’s the layup, the partial solution that allows Proviso voters to continue to sleep through the decimation of their childrens’ futures while the district could actually improve. It is the state-appointed Financial Oversight Panel. We have previously noted the irony that Proviso voters on Tuesday will elect Chris Welch as their state representative. Yes, voters are sending to Springfield the overlord of a school district so mismanaged that the equally mismanaged State of Illinois had to send in a financial board to control this district’s finances.
Irony aside, the FOP has done a stellar job and under newly granted powers now has the authority to hire and fire the superintendent and the finance manager. So expect to see a new finance leader who is not only competent but also understands that she effectively works for the FOP not the superintendent or the school board.
Now comes the hard part. This coming spring there will be a school board election. State-Rep.-to-be Chris Welch has pinky promised he won’t seek reelection. He will, of course, attempt to get a stooge elected to replace him so he can continue to hold power and influence.
Who, and let’s make this local, who from Forest Park is going to step up and run for this school board? Forest Parkers pay high taxes to Proviso high schools and send very few of our students to the schools. Now is the time for multiple candidates who grasp the simple notion that a high school education is an essential right and a practical necessity for any level of success today to decide to run to reclaim this district from the bamboozlers who have captured it.
Who is going to do it?