Board members reacted with disappointment to a $7.2 million cost-estimate to move Proviso Township High School District 209 administrative offices from Proviso Math and Science Academy to Proviso East High School at the Aug. 11 meeting.  

Legat Architects provided a one-page “Estimate of Probable Cost” to remodel both buildings for the move. Creating new office space at Proviso East was estimated at $4 million, while building classrooms on the fifth floor at PMSA was pegged at $3.2 million.

Board President Theresa Kelly asked why the district couldn’t re-use office space formerly housing the administration before the move to PMSA in 2005? 

“The cost would be to walk down First Avenue to Proviso East,” she said. 

“It seems like a lot of costs here that look incredibly inflated,” said board Secretary Claudia Medina. “Do we need to put out an RFP [request for proposals] for an architect?” 

The new board proposed the move as both a way to best use empty space and a way to engage administrators in the district’s most critical problems. 

Proviso East is under-utilized with an enrollment of 1,600 students in a building with a capacity for 3,000. Meanwhile, PMSA has only 821 students, according to the Illinois Report Card.

“If we can free up space on the fifth floor at PMSA, we have the opportunity to capture more students in the township who are not attending Proviso schools,” said Ned Wagner. 

The price tag was a rough estimate, Chief Finance Officer Todd Drafall stressed, based on a remodeling formula of $250 per square foot at Proviso East and $150 per square foot at PMSA. 

Legat’s proposal calls for a complete overhaul of the southwest wing of the first floor of the Proviso East building, including the unused print shop. The new space would accommodate 21 staff members, offices, conference space and file storage. 

Drafall explained remodeling older parts of the school was a way to “save the prime real estate for the students.” The district just remodeled an entire set of classrooms damaged in a fire. 

But the plan did not fly with Kelly, who asked Drafall to return to the drawing board and present a plan repurposing existing office space. 

Other veteran board members were not convinced the move was necessary. Theresa McKelvey called the move “a waste of time and a waste of money.”

“We have existing offices in this building that are in use now, so why can’t we use them?”

Brian Cross complained the move would “blow a hole in our capital budget.” 

But the new majority, Medina, Wagner, Kelly and McDermott remain committed to the project.

“We are on the cusp of something amazing happening at Proviso East, and moving the administration there is part of that vision,” said Wagner.

 New principal for Proviso East

The D209 board hired Patrick Hardy as the new principal of Proviso East High School. Hardy most recently served as assistant superintendent for curriculum at Freeport SD 145 outside Rockford, where he was paid a base salary of $120,000 with around $28,000 in benefits. Before that he was principal for three years in Freeport High School, principal of Auburn High School in Rockford and taught in the Boston Public Schools. 

Hardy holds a master’s degree from the Harvard School of Education and works with the University of Chicago as a principal leadership coach with the Network for College Success. 

The district will pay Hardy $157,836.68 — a base salary of $143,000 with a Teachers Retirement System pension payment.

Former Principal Tony Valente was transferred to the position of dean at Proviso West. 

 Committee to hammer out law firm bid 

The board agreed to meet Aug. 26 for the Committee of the Whole to brainstorm a request for proposals for a new district law firm. At the July meeting, the board split 3-3 on whether to bid out for new district lawyers. Claudia Medina was out of the country. 

The vote was on the agenda again Aug. 11, but Vice President Kevin McDermott kicked the vote forward to give members time to agree on language. The board will craft the RFP with input from all members, then convene a special meeting that day to vote on whether it should be published. Del Galdo Law Group, of Berwyn, has represented the district since 2007.

 D209 receives mental health grant

D209 is one of only seven districts in the country awarded a special mental health grant from the Center for School Mental Health, based at the University of Maryland. 

Two social workers from the district will travel to Baltimore in October for training in best practices to support students with mental health issues, said Director of Special Education Vanessa Schmitt. The program will work with Proviso East’s in-house health center, staffed by Loyola Medicine nurses. The partnership will also link the district to resources and help set up a sustainable mental health program, Schmitt said.

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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