Dear Proviso Township Citizens,
On Feb. 28, I forwarded an angry and intemperate letter to D209 Board President Rodney Alexander criticizing him for allowing our new superintendent to largely dismantle much of what we’ve worked to achieve the past six years.
I am writing to all of you because, while I stand by my outrage over the massive changes Mr. Alexander seems OK with, the language I used was abusive and inappropriate. I apologize to all who were offended by my harsh language.
I do not, however, apologize to Mr. Alexander or Supt. Henderson for my pointed criticisms of their behavior, or the questions I have raised about Supt. Henderson’s past conduct.
That said, I also believe Mr. Alexander’s choice to read the letter in public during a board meeting was a cheap ploy to take attention away from my specific criticisms of how Alexander, Henderson and other board members are damaging our school district.
I also need to point out that Mr. Alexander was rude and abusive in turn, calling me a bigot and equating my letter as akin to a Ku Klux Klan type of assault on Black men.
When I was first elected six years ago, the first Latina woman ever elected to this board, it was in part to be an advocate for the voiceless. The Latino community, despite comprising 56 percent of Proviso students, felt their needs were not being met, their concerns not being heard. Racism and the “pipeline to prison” reality so many minorities have suffered are not limited to Black youth, but Brown as well. And the transformative power of coalition building and progress toward genuine equity must benefit both Brown and Black youth.
The actions of Rodney Alexander, James Henderson and those who support them are harming the interests of all Proviso students, Black and Brown, and the staff that we count on to educate our students.
The ability of board members to do their jobs has been compromised by the Superintendent and board president, who refuse to supply information necessary for us to provide oversight and sound judgment, which we were elected to do.
Board leadership must strive for full transparency and honest flow of information. That process includes answering tough questions from the community and his board members. A transparent leader communicates at every step along the way, continually articulating why he is taking certain actions and be prepared to answer questions, provide supporting documents and explain his reasoning.
I am concerned and frustrated at Dr. James Henderson’s unwillingness to work to foster a positive, nurturing and transparent school culture. His rude and dismissive fear-based tactics are destroying the fabric of our beloved school district.
Rodney Alexander’s abuse of power is such that he feels entitled to criticize the media and an elected board member solely because the narrative he hopes to push does not align with the facts being presented in the board meeting.
Mr. Alexander feels entitled to attack me and the local paper, slandering me as a racist, shaming me during a president’s report, and doing it solely to silence my voice.
Unfortunately for Mr. Alexander, my criticisms of him, unlike his of me, are backed up by solid documentation. There is long and consistent documentation of Dr. James Henderson’s questionable, incompetent and even possibly illegal behavior at several school districts where he previously worked.
Dr. James Henderson is currently under active investigation for improper activities at his last school district in Mississippi, a district from which he resigned after just two years on very short, short notice.
Now, under Henderson’s continued autocratic incompetency, our district is faced with losing our entire business office, our entire administration, our IT department, and anyone who else who could provide oversight and raise concerns as needed.
D209’s written policy regarding the superintendent states that he or she “must be of unquestionable integrity.”
Yet I am being castigated for daring to make note of the fact that Dr. James Henderson’s integrity is currently being seriously questioned in Mississippi.
My criticisms have been called harassment and now worse, racism. The progress we made over the last 6 years, is now framed in a narrative that suggests we have failed the children. I should hope this board would value factual clarity, and not condemn those who question payments to Dr. James Henderson’s friends for work that should be done by him.
Once again, I regret that I allowed my anger at the betrayal of our students and district employees to hurt the message I wanted to send. But I was elected as a voice for the whole community, including the majority 56 percent Hispanic student population in Proviso District 209. Community members voted overwhelmingly in recent elections to ensure process transparency and equitable transformative education initiatives. I have striven to give a voice to those who have gone unheard, and mostly importantly, to foster board leadership that values integrity.
That is what drives me — the students, the staff, the teachers and all those people who have stood behind us as we worked the past six years to repair the financial and education damage wrought by severe mismanagement of funds in previous administrations in Proviso.
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