Nia Abdullah, the principal at Proviso West High School in Hillside, has been reinstated after a brief suspension.

The Proviso Township High School District 209 Board of Education voted 4-2 to reinstate Abdullah during their meeting on Dec. 10.

Board member Claudia Medina and board President Ned Wagner voted against reinstating Abdullah. Board member Theresa Kelly was absent.

Abdullah was allowed to return to the high school on the morning of Dec. 11 — roughly three weeks after she and another employee were placed on suspension for reasons that the district has not disclosed.

District 209 officials announced on Nov. 18 that made a series of “temporary leadership changes” in the district, including appointing Proviso East Assistant Principal Fred Aguirre as interim principal at Proviso West to temporarily replace Abdullah.

Abdullah had been temporarily reassigned to another position at another school since her suspension. Officials have not confirmed which school that was. 

District officials also appointed Brandon Gale, Proviso Math and Science Academy’s lead security manager, as interim security manager at Proviso West, to replace Levertis Robinson, who was not reinstated on Dec. 10.

The decision to suspend Abdullah rankled some D209 board members, including Rodney Alexander, who called it “an egregious act” during the Dec. 10 meeting.

Last month, the district did not go into details about the matter, citing personnel privacy. But at the Dec. 10 meeting, Wagner said the board had discussed “the situation at length in executive session” last month.

“All the data was laid out and the superintendent asked for the board’s advice and direction, and no one on the board said anything,” Wagner said. “I was the only one who said that I didn’t think it was a good fit. I looked around at everyone and said, ‘OK, the superintendent is asking for direction in this matter. This is our chance.’ And no one said anything. … We told Dr. Rodriguez to do what he saw fit and the board would back him up and now we’re hanging him out to dry.”

Roughly a dozen people spoke in support of Abdullah during the public comment portion of the Dec. 10 meeting.

“These are some hardworking people who are committed to educating our children, and I see Dr. Abdullah as one of those persons,” said Bishop Reginald Saffo, the chairman of the Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance Network, a faith-based social service organization in Maywood. Saffo said that he’s substitute taught in all three D209 schools.

Les Lynn, the head of Argument-Centered Education, an organization that works in Proviso West to administer argumentative literacy programming to students, credited Abdullah for bringing the program into the school. Lynn said that through the program, Proviso West has hosted public debates on subjects like reparations.

Margaret Riley, the president of the Proviso Teachers Union and a teacher at Proviso West, was not in favor of reinstating Abdullah.

“It’s important for all of you to know all the positive changes that are occurring at Proviso West since Mr. Aguirre has become our interim principal,” Riley said. “You have received many emails to support these changes from many teachers today. Many people won’t stand here tonight to express facts, because of fear of retaliation.”

Riley added that the “turnover in just two weeks is better than I’ve seen in over two years,” adding that Aguirre has developed a plan for a more positive environment and better student behavior.

“Some of you have also stated that we have hired a competent superintendent and we need to support the superintendent,” she said. “I hope that holds true.”

When reached for comment on Wednesday, the district, through its spokeswoman, district declined discussing the situation, citing personnel issues.

District officials did not elaborate how Abdullah’s reinstatement would affect the temporary appointments they made at Proviso East and PMSA.

Abdullah was hired in 2017. The D209 school board unanimously approved a 2-year contract for her in June.