At a special D209 board meeting on April 27, the four re-elected board members took their oath of office, and the board voted on who would fill the roles of president, vice president and secretary.
Rodney Alexander, Amanda Grant, Della Patterson and Sam Valtierrez all ran unopposed in the April 6 race and were reelected as members of the D209 board of education.
Before administering the oath of office to the re-elected board members, Kelly asked those present “to just think about all of the influential and successful people that have come out of Proviso Township High School District.”
“We don’t know if you will be teaching the next mayor, like Edwenna Perkins [mayor of Maywood], actor Dennis Franz, or the next individual to take us to space, like Eugene Cernan. Or Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore [now deceased].” She mentioned there are about 14 NBA players who’ve heralded from Proviso schools, as well as NBA coach Doc Rivers. John Prine, American country and folk singer, was presented as another example of a Proviso graduate, as was Chris Welch, speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford.
All four reelected board members addressed the public about being elected once again to serve the district.
“I am strictly here for student achievement and academic learning,” Patterson said. “That’s why I ran for this board. I have a passion for making sure students get what they need and get to the next level in life.” She added that nobody has asked her about the fact that students are not performing at levels they should be. “No one has addressed the fact that 13 percent and 16 percent of our students are at grade level. Not one person has talked to me about that,” Patterson said.
Patterson was referring to 2018-19 school year scores, prior to the suspension of in-person learning, released by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and presented by the district. According to that data, in Proviso Township High Schools as a whole, student proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA) was 16 percent. In both math and science, it was 13 percent.
Valtierrez, who addressed the audience in both English and Spanish, spoke in support of continued community participation in meetings. “I’m here to work for the community, and I respect every individual that sits there and says whatever they’ve got to say… It is your right to participate. And I’m not going to take that away from you. Actually, I congratulate you participating in what is your right, to uphold us, to make us accountable,” said Valtierrez.
“It’s been a few very tumultuous months, to say the least,” Grant said. “But the oath of office gives me a renewed sense of wonder and awe at what we’re doing here and what still needs to be done.” She talked about how taking the oath is a good opportunity to recommit, as board members, to “open and honest governance.”
Like Valtierrez, Grant invited community members to hold the board accountable.
“You know, I’ve said this many, many times,” Grant said. “This is a community school district. And what’s good for the school district is good for the entire community. And what’s good for the community is good for the entire school district.”
Alexander spoke at length, talking about how he came to Proviso Township and the uniqueness of the community, in part demonstrated through the fact that many people who have attended schools in the district come back to serve within the Proviso community.
“That’s not to be found in every community,” Alexander said. “It’s not to be found in every city. And there’s a closeness and a connection and service and concern here that’s really special. I count it an honor to serve in this community.”
Alexander also talked about his goal to fight against systemic racism to improve education for students in Proviso Township.
“We’re pushing forward now into uncharted territory,” Alexander said. “…We’re attacking the elephant in the room, the thing that no one wants to talk about: systemic, inbred, ingrained racism. Nobody wants to talk about that. We’re going to talk about it … But we’re going to do something about it while we’re talking. And we’re not going to be ashamed of it. We’re not going to shy back from it. Because if you really want to change, you got to shake some stuff up sometimes.”
Alexander, known for his sometimes-heavy use of the gavel during meetings, apologized several times throughout the meeting for cutting off a teacher during her public comment when the timer went off, after allowing two previous speakers to make comments long after their allotted time. Valtierrez objected to Alexander’s use of the gavel to try to stop the commenter.
“I apologize to the young lady for hitting that gavel,” Alexander said. “Because Sam, you’re right. We have to sit here and take it whether we like it or not.”
The board structure remained the same after the board voted on who should serve as board president, vice president and secretary. Alexander was reelected to serve a second term as board president, with one opposing vote from board member Ned Wagner and no vote from member Claudia Medina, who was not present during that part of the meeting.
Theresa Kelly was reelected unanimously to serve again as vice president, and Amanda Grant will continue on as secretary after a four to two vote in her favor, with Patterson and Valtierrez voting against the appointment.