We were as shocked as Proviso Township High School District 209 board members when more than a quarter-million dollars’ worth of fines payable to the Teachers Retirement System showed up on the board agenda Sept. 24. The board was asked to pay the bill before Sept. 30, to avoid paying interest.

The fines were created by Illinois legislators as a stopgap to make overgenerous school districts cough up the money if they give educators or teachers raises of more than 6 percent in one year.

As D209 CFO Todd Drafall told the board, these fines are sometimes out of the district’s control and can show up in a district when an employee gets a promotion and then moves on.

But in D209’s case, the abrupt mid-year 2011 demotion of two principals, Alexis Wallace at Proviso West High School and Milton Patch at Proviso East, caused the district to incur fines from TRS that added up to more than $86,000.

When Wallace was ousted in 2011, students and parents protested.

It was all part of a messy disagreement with former board President Emanuel “Chris” Welch that involved a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Wallace’s sister, 209 educator Dylester Palm and the firing of Welch’s former fiancé, Assistant Superintendent of Finance Nikita Johnson. Wallace also accused Welch of sending her threatening texts.

Now the district has a monetary punishment for these abrupt and political dismissals.

We hope this financial slap on the hand is the last purge of the dysfunction that ran the D209 school board for years and look forward to more steady leadership by the current board members.

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