D209's Children First Slate: Incumbent Francine Harrell, Theodore "Teddy" Matthews and ShawnTe Raines-Welch. (Courtesy Facebook)

Three candidates calling themselves The Children First Party have big plans for Proviso Township High School District 209 if they are elected board members for the April 7, 2015 election.

Theodore “Teddy” Matthews, Francine Harrell and ShawnTe M. Raines-Welch, who are running as a slate, say they’re dedicated to putting the youth first and solving the issues in D209 instead of complaining.

Theodore “Teddy Matthews

Matthews, youth minister at the Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood, decided to run because of his passion for the students. 

“The reality of it is our students need advocates,” Matthews said. “They’re suffering from a multitude of issues and they need us. They haven’t been afforded some of the opportunities even my generation was provided with.”

Matthews wants to see a continued push to support the district’s local grade schools that feed into high schools. He also wants to see updated technology within D209 that promotes 21st century learning.

“Earlier this year there was an issue with students [not] having books in some of the schools. Students and parents need to have continued access to those types of things. We need shared accountability,” Matthews said.

If elected, Matthews plans to collaborate with local churches, community organizations and state legislators to help implement these changes to D209.

“The district can’t do it alone,” said Matthews, a life-long Maywood resident. “I’m a huge advocate for connecting the community to the district as a whole.”

Aside from ministering to youth at the Rock of Ages Church, Matthews is also the founder of The Empowerment Academy, a nonprofit that focuses on youth empowerment, job readiness, promoting activism, college preparation and mental learning through sports activities.

Matthews is also one of the founding members of Parent University hosted by the Strengthening Proviso College and Career Readiness Committee.

Matthews, a newlywed, is married to Jeri Matthews. He is currently furthering his education at Concordia University of Chicago in River Forest.

Incumbent Francine Harrell

Harrell, an incumbent for D209, said the district has the best superintendent [Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart] in the world and that she thinks test scores and the graduation rate will continue to rise.

She said the district has more Advanced Placement classes now compared to previous years and that she wants to see more barber and beauty school classes.

“Lots of children don’t want to go to college, but if they’re offered a trade maybe they’ll want to do that. Barbers make a lot of money,” Harrell said. “We want them to go to college and at least be ready for the workforce.”

Harrell, a retired human resources associate for ComEd, said she would like to see nursing programs brought into D209 schools.

If elected, Harrell would be serving her second term as school board member for D209. The incumbent has lived in Broadview for nearly 25 years and has been married to her husband Jerry for 49 years.

She has four adult children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

One of her adult children graduated from Proviso West High School, five of her grandchildren graduated from Proviso East High School and two currently attend East. Two of her great-grandchildren currently attend Lindop Elementary School.

ShawnTe M. Raines-Welch

ShawnTe M. Raines-Welch, lawyer for Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman LLP law firm specializing in representing schools and municipalities, wants more accountability to be held with administration and parents in D209. She is the wife of 7th District State Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who served 10 years as D209 school board president. 

She said the district needs forward thinking individuals.

“Sometimes when you’ve been in a position for a long time you get complacent and lose sight of what your future could be,” Welch said. “As an educator, the question should be what can I do now to prepare my students for the future?”

Welch, a nearly lifelong resident of Hillside, said students in D209 aren’t learning traditional values such as having a dual parent household.

“I think that piece is missing. It wasn’t missing when I attended Proviso West High School,” Welch said. “We had home economics and woodshop classes.”

The Hillside resident also wants to see a technology acquisition program implemented in district schools so students can have the technology they need for school such as tablets.

“Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy [PMSA] has state of the art computer labs where they’re learning robotics. I would like to see that in Proviso East and West High Schools,” Welch said. 

Welch has been married for four years and has two children.

She is also a commissioner on the Proviso Township Mental Health Commission and a former board member of the Answer, Inc.

Other candidates running for D209 board are Forest Parkers Claudia Medina and Nathan “Ned” Wagner, and Incumbent Theresa Kelly, of Maywood. Candidate hopeful Cheryl Anderson, of Melrose Park, faces a nominating paperwork challenge hearing Jan. 7 at the Cook County Electoral Board.