The Proviso Together slate completed a historic election night sweep, April 4, as its four candidates all secured a spot on Proviso District 209’s high school board, guaranteeing a clear majority for the reform-minded group.
Amanda J. Grant of Westchester was the top vote-getter with 7,401 (15.05%). Samuel Valtierrez of Melrose Park was second, with 6,878 (13.99%). Arbdella “Della” Patterson of Maywood was third with 6,875 (13.98%) and Rodney Alexander of Bellwood finished fourth with 6,455 (13.13%).
The four other candidates, who ran as the Proviso First slate, included three incumbents. Brian M. Cross of Westchester, Daniel J. Adams of Melrose Park and Teresa D. McKelvy of Berkeley were all current board members who failed to secure re-election.
Voters could choose four candidates, each for a four-year term, among the eight-candidate field.
Jacqueline M. Walton of Bellwood, Proviso First’s fourth member, placed seventh with 5,111 votes (10.39%).
Adams was fifth with 6,031 votes (12.27%).
McKelvy was sixth with 5,679 votes (11.55%).
Cross was eighth with 4,742 votes (9.64%).
“The voters have spoken. They’ve asked for a change,” Cross said when reached by phone the morning after the election. “I wish the board members-elect the very best in their future endeavors.”
A total of 14,504 votes were cast in the April 4 election, an increase of 2,352 votes from the last election in 2015.
Ned Wagner and Claudia Medina of Forest Park and Theresa Kelly of Maywood, current board members elected in 2015, supported Proviso Together in this election.
“We give [D209 Superintendent Jesse] Rodriguez carte blanche to focus on education, empowerment and excellence for all children in the district. Not crazy politics, or politicians,” Medina said in an email to the Review on April 5. “The community wants schools to be focused on advancing children for a great tomorrow. And that is what we are going to do.”
Dozens of Proviso Together supporters packed an enclosed outdoor patio at McGaffer’s to celebrate the campaign, cheering and chanting enthusiastically throughout the night as returns were announced.
“The amount of time, energy and passion from hundreds of people across 10 towns, it’s incredible,” said Connie Brown, Proviso Together’s political committee chairperson, Tuesday night. “We finally have a board without politicians on it. These guys have been fighting for so long to make that happen.”
The assembled supporters were geographically diverse with Forest Parkers, including Village Administrator Tim Gillian, mingling with voters from Maywood, Melrose Park and Bellwood.
“Basic training, pledging my fraternity, and campaigning,” said Alexander, a former Marine. “Those are the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.”
Valtierrez was tired from a 14-hour day of hopping between polling places, but he remained positive.
“I’m very excited. It was a tough day,” he said. “I’m very emotional right now.”
Supporters repeatedly mentioned the fact that Proviso Together’s candidates were all former, future or current parents of D209 children as a top reason for their support.
Still, others cautioned that change for the troubled district will take time.
“This gave us control of the board,” said Gary Woll, a retired Elmwood Park High School teacher and a longtime resident of Maywood. “Now we have to prove ourselves. It’s gonna be incremental. But I believe in these folks.”