Dr. Bessie Karvelas, the new principal of Proviso West High School. Karvelas served as the principal of PMSA and the district's chief innovation officer, a role that has been eliminated. | District 209

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The District 209 school board recently approved some of the first major administrative personnel changes recommended by new Supt. James Henderson.

The board voted 4-3 in favor of appointing Daniel Johnson the assistant superintendent for Human Resources. Johnson, a 17-year veteran in D209 who served a stint as interim superintendent before Henderson was hired, replaces Anthony Brazouski in the role. He’ll be paid a salary of $170,000. Board members Della Patterson, Theresa Kelly and Claudia Medina voted against the appointment.

The board voted unanimously in favor of appointing Dr. Alexander Brandon as assistant principal at Proviso East High School. Brandon, a 20-year educator from Indiana, will be paid a salary of $135,500.

The board voted 6-1 in favor of appointing Nicole Wilson to serve as executive director of Media and Community Engagement.

Wilson comes to D209 from Northern Illinois University, where she worked in communications for the university’s administration and finance division, according to a press release the district issued on Sept. 9. She’ll be paid a salary of $105,000.

Board member Claudia Medina was the only member who voted against Wilson’s hiring.

“We already have somebody in that position,” Medina said. “It’s unnecessary.”

When contacted on Sept. 9, Henderson said that Cesar Rodriguez, who was hired as the district’s community and public relations director last year at $95,000, is currently still in that role.

Henderson said that Wilson is now the district’s communications head and that Rodriguez will report directly to her.

Henderson added that Wilson’s position is “cost-neutral,” since he eliminated the position of chief innovation officer, a role held by Dr. Bessie Karvelas, who was the longtime principal of Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park before her promotion last year.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the board approved the appointment of Karvelas as principal of Proviso West, where she replaces Dr. Nia Abdullah, who was reassigned to another administrative role within the district in May. Karvelas will be paid a salary of $171,564.

Board member Claudia Medina was the only member who voted against Karvelas’ appointment.

“I believe this motion goes against a lot of the innovation that we had moving forward for our brand new IB [International Baccalaureate academies at Proviso East and Proviso West],” she said. “I don’t think this is positive.”

Appointed chief innovation officer last year by former superintendent Jesse Rodriguez, Karvelas was the architect of the new math and science academies that debuted at Proviso East and Proviso West this school year. The new academies are meant to replicate the rigorous curriculum and selective enrollment of PMSA.

On Wednesday, Henderson said that he thought that the chief innovation officer position would have usurped the authority of the building principals at East and West.

He added that there is also a separate director of innovation position, a role that he believed duplicated the functions of the chief innovation officer position.

“We didn’t need two individuals doing the same job,” Henderson said. “Essentially, that’s what would have happened had we allowed a chief making $168,000 and another individual, working as a deputy, making over $130,000. I’m going to be fiscally prudent with taxpayer’s dollars. You don’t need two people doing the same job. You only have three high schools. How much innovation is really going on?”

Henderson said that Karvelas “has done some great work, from what I can tell, with PMSA and I would like to see her replicate her success at West. I believe she will be able to do that.”

Henderson said that the cost-savings brought about by eliminating the chief innovation officer position paid for the new community and public relations director position.

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