At a special meeting Tuesday night, just a week before Election Day, the Proviso Township High School District 209 Board of Education voted to demote Proviso East principal Tony Valente to a dean’s role next year. The vote was 5 to 2.
The two school board members who voted no, Theresa Kelly and Kevin McDermott, did so because, while they agreed with terminating Valente as principal, they did not want him as a dean, either.
“Both Theresa and I felt that he should not have been rehired as a dean, but since it was a combined vote, the only way we could vote on it was to say no,” said McDermott, who declined to say why he wanted to terminate Valente.
“On issues like this, like personnel stuff, there’s nothing I can say that’s going to be helpful, so I have no comment on that,” he said.
Valente, who made $144,591 for the 2013-14 school year, according to the district’s website, will serve as principal for the remainder of the current school year before becoming a dean next year. The school district did not immediately respond to a request for Valente’s salary next year.
School board President Dan Adams declined to comment after the meeting when asked why the board decided to demote Valente, who has been principal at Proviso East since 2011.
Valente’s father-in-law is Manny Sanchez, the founding partner of the law firm Sanchez, Hoffman & Daniels where former D209 school board president and current state Rep. Chris Welch is a partner.
Antoinette Gray, a Maywood resident and business owner and a Proviso activist is no fan of Valente.
“He doesn’t know the needs of our students, period,” said Gray, who graduated from Proviso East in 1996. “If he couldn’t relate to our students as the principal of the school, as the head of the school, what makes them think he’s going to be effective as dean? It should have been a full termination.”
Valente did not return a call from the Forest Park Review asking for comment on his demotion.
Gray believes that demoting Valente is a political move, because the poor performance of Proviso East has been an issue in the hotly contested D209 school board race.
“I actually believe it’s a political ploy, to be quite honest with you,” Gray said. “As you know, this is an election year and a lot of the issues at Proviso East have been brought to light by the Proviso  Together team. I really don’t think there is any sincerity, because if they were truly unsatisfied with his performance, he would be completely terminated.”
Kelly is running for re-election on a slate with Forest Park residents Ned Wagner and Claudia Medina under the D209 Together banner, while incumbent Francine Harrell is running with Welch’s wife, ShawnTe Raines-Welch, and Theodore Matthews under the banner of the Children First Party.
Valente began his career as a history teacher at Proviso East and stayed there until 2001, when he became a dean at West Aurora High School.
Under Valente, test scores at Proviso East have recently improved from a very low level. Last year, 21 percent of Proviso East juniors met or exceeded state standards on the Illinois Scholastic Aptitude Test (ISAT) compared to just 16 percent in 2013.
However, according to the Illinois School Report Card, only 7 percent of Proviso East juniors are considered college-ready. Proviso East has a graduation rate of 58 percent and 65 percent of Proviso East students are classified as low-income.