In yet another clash — both personal and policy related — the Proviso Township High Schools Board of Education ended last week’s special meeting divided on how to handle selecting a new architecture firm. In the end, the board majority chose to make the selection with limited input from the public and the administration.
On Nov. 29, the board met at Proviso Math and Science Academy to hear from Superintendent Jesse Rodriguez regarding where the district currently stands in the selection process and to vote on moving forward.
Rodriguez explained that the process started last year, and he presented the board with completed requests for qualifications and matrixes utilized per the request of some school board members who formed an advisory committee with administrators, Financial Oversight Panel members, and residents to work together on process input.
With requests for qualifications completed by 11 firms using guidelines provided by the board, Rodriguez presented information to allow the board to make a decision.
“The intent for tonight is to review the requests for qualifications and the matrix, which is in line with the request for qualifications,” Rodriguez said.
But board member Claudia Medina expressed concern that building managers and other administrators were not available at the meeting for questions on the matrix, which was the exact reason she and fellow board members Ned Wagner and Theresa Kelly wanted to further review the selection process.
Rodriguez explained that with the completed questionnaires, there were two options the board could take to move along with hiring.
The first option, which Rodriguez called “Scenario A,” would include three board meetings (two additional plus that evening’s meeting) to further discuss matters. Rodriguez said board members would review the 11 firms, and the administration would crunch the numbers, ranking the firms, and selecting the top six firms for interview. Following interviews, the board would then select their top three picks and then rank from there to reach a conclusion.
“Scenario B” would require four meetings total and would involve a more extensive process, with board members and administrators coming together for one day to determine the rankings, followed by three meetings for interviews and discussion, leading to finalist selections.
“[The process] does require a lot of work and time of you, but I think for the sake of keeping this going, I can explain the documents we have here so that everyone is aware,” Rodriguez said. “Then, as a board, you can engage in discussion about how you will move forward.”
Having interested firms fill out extensive questionnaires was done by the request of board members and the advisory committee using categories Rodriguez said were completely aligned with the requests for qualifications.
“Moving forward, my recommendation to you is to use this rating scale,” he said.
Medina, however, said neither scenario would be inclusive of the work and input that people outside of the board and administration provided in earlier discussions regarding the hiring.
“This work has already been completed extensively and exhaustively,” she said, “and I think that to not allow the courtesy to the rest of the people who participated, gave their time, volunteered their time, who have studied this extensively — to not participate in this is offensive and gives us a complete lack of knowledge and moving forward blindly.”
Medina said it seemed frivolous to disregard the opinions of people other than board members when making a decision that will affect the entire district.
“There’s some of us that have already read all of these proposals,” she said. “We’ve had this material since March of last year. I think we’ve been given ample time to go through this.”
Board President Teresa McKelvy disagreed with Medina, saying the process would start to become too convoluted if people not formally appointed to serve the district were involved.
“To be honest with you, when you start incorporating a lot of people, it starts to become confusing,” McKelvy said. “This is information that we can read [and] dissect ourselves.”
When Medina said she disagreed, McKelvy replied, “That’s fine. I gave you your time to talk, please give me my time to talk. For the most part, being aligned with things in the past, we didn’t bring in administrators.”
McKelvy said she preferred Scenario A to move the process forward.
“This gives us three opportunities to go through the information and decide what we want to do. With Scenario B, this brings in additional meetings once we start incorporating other people. I do believe this is something we can handle. I think we can do this without administrators and FOP input.”
Board member Theresa Kelly sided with Medina, saying she didn’t want to neglect the opinions of other administrators and the public.
“It’s very hard for board members to come to meetings and schedule anything,” Kelly said. “Our time should be on children — that’s what we’re here for; to make sure children are learning and not architects.”
Board secretary Brian Cross struck back, saying that Kelly had spent unnecessary time at previous board meetings discussing the issue.
“You’ve spent 45 percent of our board meetings asking questions every single meeting for four months on architects,” he said.
McKelvy said that all board members should be involved but not the public.
“I do feel like the board can do this work,” she said.
Medina said, “You want to find an architect that’s going to work the best for the district, but … you want no input from the administration and no input from the people actually doing the repair and maintenance?”
McKelvy said that Medina and a few other board members did not totally seek the opinion of all other board members when holding advisory committee meetings with outsiders.
“We were not aware of that committee and you know it,” she said.
Kelly said, “Everyone was aware of it so you can stop that.”
At the end of the discussions, board members McKelvy, Daniel Adams, Brian Cross and Kevin McDermott cast votes for Scenario A.
“To me, this is business as usual for Proviso,” Kelly said following the vote.
Before calling to adjourn, McKelvy said, “How is this business as usual when this is a committee of the whole? I believe this is work that the board of education can do.”