A change of scenery may be ahead for administrators at Proviso Township High School District 209. If the school board has its way, the district’s highest-paid professional employees may be packing up and moving north on First Avenue from the fifth-floor penthouse of the Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park to the post-fire remodeled wing of Proviso East High School in Maywood.
The board has also asked the administration to consider moving summer school classes to Proviso Math and Science Academy, which has air conditioning.
At their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday night, the District 209 school board got a report on the newly remodeled rooms at Proviso East, which have been fully updated to include six-amp electrical service. The rooms have not been purposed as classrooms yet because of delays in construction. Building Director Ron Anderson said the high school has capacity for 3,200 students and only 1,600 are enrolled.
School board Secretary Claudia Medina said it would make sense to free up classroom space for more students at Proviso Math and Science Academy by emptying the fifth floor and moving administrative offices to East.
“Since we have a new principal and we have had a lot of trouble there, it would make sense to have extra oversight [at Proviso East],” said Medina.
“We’d be talking about moving all the administrative offices to East,” added new board member Ned Wagner.
Medina asked Finance Director Todd Drafall to come up with a cost estimate to move the administrative offices. Architect Mark Legat said he would give a cost estimate per square foot to remodel the empty rooms for administrators’ use.
Until a decision is made about a move, the board asked about removing the locks on fifth-floor administrative offices.
Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart said the offices were locked with a swipe mechanism because there was not always a security guard on the floor. She said even though the building had security guards at the entrances, students had access to the fifth floor.
That didn’t sit well with Medina.
“Most schools have administration areas that are not locked, so teachers and students can come in,” she said.
Medina also said the principals offices in the three high schools should be at the front of the buildings, so parents could easily find them. She complained the principal’s office at Proviso East was tucked away in an obscure corner without signage.
“There’s signage on the door,” said Principal Tony Valente.
Summer school in Forest Park?
Because of construction taking place this summer at Proviso West High School, summer school classes were planned for Proviso East, which has no air conditioning and inadequate electricity for computers in the non-remodeled parts of the building.
The building staff proposed buying window-unit air conditioners and working with laptops on battery power during class time, which would be charged overnight.
PMSA is the only school building in the district with air conditioning, but a zoning ordinance in Forest Park specifies that the school cannot be used for “remedial classes.”
Medina told the board she spoke to Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone, who said he was confident the Zoning Board of Appeals would grant a variance for summer classes. She said Calderone said he might be able to meet this week to discuss the idea.
“Forest Park seems to be very open to looking at restructuring that,” Medina said.
That idea received support from board member Kevin McDermott.
“Let’s try and see if we can do it this year,” he said.
Medina said teachers and students would work better with air conditioning.
“Children who are here for summer school and need that extra help can think a lot better if they are comfortable and in a learning environment,” she said.
Medina also said the village of Forest Park was open to rezoning an empty PMSA parking lot for athletic space or a gym. Currently PMSA students who participate in sports travel to Proviso East or West.
Mayor Anthony Calderone was not immediately available to confirm Medina’s comments.
In other business, the board said it would be asking the administration to help overhaul student discipline policies and expulsion hearing process. The board divided into committees, including a student behavior committee.
“We need to have more information before we make a life-altering [discipline] hearing for a student,” said Medina.
After a wave of fights at Proviso East last October, around 10 students were suspended and expelled. Parents and grandparents came to board meetings with complaints their children’s hearings were rushed through. One suspended student, Calvin Henry, 17, was fatally shot Nov. 5, 2014 near the Prairie Path by a 16-year-old, Maywood police said.
The student behavior committee will have community members invited to participate, said board President Theresa Kelly.
Board member McDermott also asked for a request for proposals for a new school district attorney to replace the Del Galdo Law Group, though no decision has yet been made on whether to replace the law firm, which has represented District 209 since 2007.