Claudia Medina told her fellow Proviso District 209 Board of Education members, at their meeting March 8, that the district’s Education Committee recently received a presentation from an immigration lawyer who encouraged the district to do more to help students who come to the United States at a young age get on a path to citizenship.

Medina told the board that when these students turn 15 they are eligible to apply for a green card. Getting them on the path to citizenship, she said, would help the students’ ability to attend college.

However, Medina said she had heard there is considerable fear in the Latino community over recent raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Officials (ICE). Additionally, she said, a number of recent raids have made undocumented families concerned about attending public events, even church, for fear family members could be taken for deportation.

Medina proposed that the board consider making Proviso a “Safe Zone,” which would protect students and their families from ICE raids. Medina provided information to the district’s counsel so the district can look into the legality of the issue.

Once Proviso was designated a Safe Zone, Medina said, the district could hold an event for students with immigration lawyers and representatives of the Mexican Consulate, which would be able to provide bilingual information to students and their families. Further, it would help undocumented D209 students, who came to the country as young children, apply for residency and put them on a path to citizenship.

“We have a high percentage of students who are eligible because 15-year-olds go to high school,” Medina told the board. 

Overall, board members were supportive of the idea. The information was brought up as informational only and the board will further discuss the issue after getting more information.

Board delays discussion of new supt. contract

The board planned to meet March 7 to discuss the contract for their “top candidate” for superintendent, Dr. Jesse Rodriguez, but the meeting was canceled, and due to time constraints at their March 8 meeting, the board was unable to bring it up for discussion.

Previously, the board named Rodriguez as their top choice to replace outgoing Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart at the end of the school year.

Rodriguez is a regional superintendent for Milwaukee Public Schools, where he has spent the majority of his career. He oversees 26 schools for the district. Board President Theresa Kelly and board member Claudia Medina went to Milwaukee for a site visit Feb. 29 to see Rodriguez in action and talk to his colleagues and students in the district. Both said they were very impressed with his qualities during the visit.

Kelly said Thursday that the board planned to discuss the contract at a special meeting Monday at PMSA in executive session. The board will then submit the contract to the FOP for review and consideration. If all goes well, the contact will then be sent to Rodriguez for approval.

“We’re on track,” Kelly said of the process. 

PMSA stacks up against selective schools

The board also got a presentation from Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy Principal Bessie Karvelas on how PMSA compared to selective enrollment schools in the Chicago Public School system. Board members requested the comparison at their previous meeting. All the data compiled by Karvelas is available in the March 8 board packet on the district’s website.

The presentation showed how PMSA compared in categories like racial/ethnic diversity, enrollment, percentage of low-income students enrolled and average ACT scores.

The presentation showed that the district has accomplished much in recent years, Karvelas said. While she acknowledged there was still work to be done, she said the data showed positive gains.

Karvelas pointed to a ranking of schools by that showed PMSA ranked as 11th of 612 Illinois public high schools. In 2015, PMSA ranked better than 98.2 percent of high schools in Illinois in statewide performance.

In an interview after the meeting, Karvelas said a key take-away from the presentation was how well PMSA students do even when compared to schools in Chicago that accept only the very top students. She noted that PMSA accepts students with lower entrance scores than several of the selective enrollment schools, and yet PMSA is still highly ranked.

The reason, she said, was that students who attend PMSA grow significantly once they go through the program.

“PMSA has more growth from entry,” she said.

The school also recently implemented an academic program known as the International Baccalaureate program, Karvelas said, similar to the higher level AP program, which trains students to “develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalized world.”

As an authorized IB school, classes that students take in the program can result in college credits. According to Karvelas, students can take the credits they earned in the IB program at PMSA to colleges and universities abroad, as well as locally.

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