I want to publicly apologize for my misunderstanding of the presentation of the introductory audit report given to the board during our retreat on Jan. 30, 2021.  It was pointed out to the board that the report was in the very first tab of the retreat binder and then discussion proceeded explaining the findings in subsequent presentations over the course of the day.  During these presentations the board wasn’t explicitly reminded that we were going over the various sections of the report, probably assuming that we, as intelligent and seasoned board members would make that connection on our own.  Why did I not make that connection?  Who knows? And under normal circumstances, I would imagine…who would care.

But ever since even before Dr. Henderson was hired he has been subject to a relentless attack on his character.  It is not my modus operandi to engage in public discourse about board business, but now that I inadvertently added to the cloud of suspicion that has been cast over his very brief tenure I feel that it is my duty to speak out. 

It was well into the evening of the final interviews of our superintendent search (a search that I chaired and that was in its second iteration, we having decided as a board that the first round of candidates was not strong enough) that the board tallied the scores of the two finalists.  Dr. Henderson came out on top.  It was close because the other finalist was also a tremendous candidate, but all 7 board members agreed that we should contact him immediately to begin contract negotiations.  That meeting ended at around 9:30 p.m.  By 11:00 p.m. my phone was ringing.  It was our superintendent search representative calling me to say that Ms. (Claudia) Medina called her insisting that the search process had been compromised; that the offer needed to be taken off the table and the search started over from scratch.

What happened in that intervening 90 minutes? (less than that because Ms. Medina had been on the phone for quite a while with our search rep before I was notified.)  What happened in those few minutes well after business hours?  What information could have possibly been unearthed in those few minutes that had not already been presented to us?  And why would Ms. Medina suddenly pivot on the superintendent candidate at such an hour just moments after hugging our search rep thanking her for bringing Dr. Henderson to our attention and guiding us through an intense and passionate search process? 

I have kept quiet because that is my nature.  I do not believe that arguing in public, outside the context of the board meeting, is good or productive governance behavior.  However, the regret I feel over having contributed to the negativity surrounding Dr. Henderson compels me to speak out on his behalf.  During these 8 months Dr. Henderson has demonstrated that he will implement the will of the board, picking up right where our previous superintendent left off.  The facility master plan is moving forward ahead of schedule; the 5-year financial plan is intact; administrative costs are being reduced and the funds re-allocated towards instruction; very difficult decisions are being made that are designed to bring a more equitable educational environment for all students at all three schools. 

Is Dr. Henderson perfect?  Of course not.  Is he human?  Very much so.  Is he an expert at traversing the treacherous waters of the local politics, passionate parents and skeptical educational advocates of Proviso Township?  Not yet.  But let’s give this man a chance.

Ned Wagner

Member Proviso Township High Schools District 209 Board of Education