Employees who work in Proviso Township High School District 209’s information technology (IT) department are worried about losing their jobs after learning about Superintendent James Henderson’s plans to outsource the department to an outside firm.

The D209 school board is expected to vote to approve to issue a request for proposals for the outsourcing of technology management at a special board meeting on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 9:30 a.m.

A link to the agenda and meeting can be found on the district’s website at meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Organization/1791.

During an interview on Feb. 26, D200 school board President Rodney Alexander said Henderson is proposing the outsourcing plan as part of a much broader restructuring of the district’s operations that extends into other areas.

“We keep throwing good money behind bad and the superintendent wants to totally overhaul,” Alexander said. “This would allow us to bring in some outside professionals to give us a good look into what we’re doing for just a year, train or re-train a large number of our people, and hire our own person.”

Alexander acknowledged that the district already has a technology director in Tracy Avant-Bey, but said he was “not sure what her status is.”

Alexander, however, was also blunt about the possibility that “a lot of people” within the district may lose their jobs by July 1, but he also said that he doesn’t suspect that there will be “major layoffs or anything like that” and that the “majority of IT will be retained.”

“We have had discussions about that,” Alexander said. “We’re not trying to get rid of anybody who is doing a good job, but this is a reorganization.”

Multiple employees reached out to Forest Park Review on Thursday with their concerns after hearing about Henderson’s plans for the first time earlier that day. They said the superintendent had discussed his plans with them, but that he did not answer many of their questions and did not provide any specific reasons for why he wanted to overhaul the IT department.

Attempts to reach Henderson and Nicole Wilson, the district’s communications director, on Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.

According to an employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, someone from outside of the district had conducted an IT audit late last year where an auditor asked IT employees a series of questions.

There was a report drafted, but the superintendent has not shared that report with IT personnel, according to the employee. The employee said 18 people work in the IT department and anywhere from six to eight of them are members of Proviso Council, Local 571.

“This may very will be the first step toward the privatization of the tech department but the decision to do such is not what is being considered tomorrow,” said Thomas Smith, field service director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, in an email statement sent Friday.

 “If the Board decides to take such action to privatize they will need to follow the procedures defined in [the state school code]. The code specifies written notices, public hearings and required benefits for employee among other things before privatizing public services. That said, the Union is opposed to privatization of public services. It is the Union’s belief that it is better for public services to be provided by public agencies, like school boards, rather than private companies.”

“It seems like he’s getting rid of everybody,” the employee requesting anonymity said, referencing Henderson. “We are all afraid we’re going to be unemployed by July.”

Alexander said the district is “making sure we’re sticking to the law” as it conducts the personnel restructuring and said he supports the changes, just as he supported former D209 Superintendent Jesse Rodriguez’s administrative changes.

“There’s never been a time when the culture has changed,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Alexander added that he believes there is board support for the IT overhaul, among other changes, but “I haven’t talked to all the board members.”

Another item up for vote is beginning the process of withdrawing from the PAEC Cooperative. The PAEC, Proviso Area for Exception Children, is a special education cooperative that, according to the organization’s website, “provides child diagnostic services and special treatment programs/services for students with disabilities.”

No supporting documentation with details on the above items was available on the website by the time of publication of this article.

Public comment must be submitted in advance, and the board requires all comments to include a video. The link to submit a video of public comment is available here.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com