Two Forest Park residents have thrown their hat into the ring in the April 7, 2015 election for the Proviso Township High School District 209 Board of Education. Three spots are up on the board, with one incumbent deciding not to run.

The candidates are Forest Park Spanish teacher Claudia Medina, and Nathan “Ned” Wagner. Both are parents with children in District 91 schools.

 Medina taught for 24 years and runs a Montessori teacher training and consulting business. She designed and runs the Spanish foreign language program for the D91 school district. Wagner supervises an Alzheimer and dementia program at Belmont Village Senior Center in Oak Park.

Monday, Medina posted a quote in Spanish on her Facebook page: “Quien mueve montañas empezó apartando piedrecitas.” (He who moves mountains started by moving little pebbles.)

“I am disheartened by the public high school options available to the children in our district” Medina said. “They are not safe. They are failing academically. The community culture says ‘I give up.’ But I have not. I will not. And I feel obligated to do something about it.”

In a written statement, she added, “The current leadership for the past 12 years has allowed the school(s) to fall into miserable physical and academic conditions. It is well reported that this current leadership runs this district as if it were a family business.

“As a community of people together – 209 Together – we demand change,” she added. “We will be the change. We will all have a voice in the district to create action.”

Ned Wagner said growing up in Park Forest he never even considered that the public high school could not be an option.

“Going to high school wasn’t an issue. Parents didn’t shop for private schools and check the value of their house so they could sell and move into a nicer high school district,” he said. “Every Proviso student should have a safe, academically sound option for high school. It shouldn’t be a crisis. It’s absurd that [the district] is a crisis and I can’t sit here and do nothing.”

The two candidates are both part of a group called “209 Together,” which held an informal meeting, Nov. 2, in Forest Park at the Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor. Roughly 20 Forest Park parents agreed to reach out to all D209 parents to try to find solutions to academic and safety issues at the high schools. The group has a Facebook page called ‘Proviso District 209 Together.’

Brown Cow owner Connie Brown said she was thrilled that “two amazing people have stepped up to take on a huge commitment to better all of our communities for all of us.” 

The group will meet again on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at Brian Boru Irish Pub (formerly Molly Malone’s), 7652 Madison St., Forest Park at 7 p.m. A Facebook event has been posted.

Members are reaching out to parents from other feeder communities: Maywood, Bellwood, Berkeley, Broadview, Melrose Park, Westchester, Hillside, Northlake and Stone Park.

Incumbent D209 board member Theresa Kelly confirmed Monday she will be running again. Board member Readith Ester told the Review Monday she will not run, and will be campaigning for the office of Maywood village trustee instead.

 Incumbent board Secretary Francine Harrell did not immediately return phone calls Monday regarding her plans. However, her name has appeared on candidate petitions.

Seventh District state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who served as D209 board president for 12 years, was circulating petitions in Melrose Park recently with Harrell’s name. The petitions also had the names of ShawnTe Raines (Welch’s wife) and Rev. Teddy Matthews, youth minister at Rock of Ages Church in Maywood. 

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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...

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