We do not understand how he got hired here.

We are speaking of Dr. James Henderson, the superintendent of schools for the Proviso Township High Schools District 209. He is one year into his tenure. His initial contract was recently extended by a majority of the school board for five years, an unusually long contract at a pretty penny.

But we do not understand how he got this job in the first place.

Since his arrival we have been reporting and following the reporting of journalists on the ground in Holmes County, Mississippi. That is where Henderson spent two years as superintendent before he bailed to come to Proviso. 

Last Thursday Tate Reeves, the governor of Mississippi, took the extraordinary step of imposing full state government control of this countywide school district. It came after the state board of education completed a thorough audit of multiple years of activity in the district. 

And then last week at the recommendation of the state board, Reeves, a conservative Republican, declared “a state of emergency” in the district. That means the current superintendent was removed from office. It means the duly elected local school board was dissolved. 

The schools there are now fully under the control of the state, and they will be under total state control on an open-ended basis until significant progress on several fronts is made. This could take years.

Here’s what Reeves wrote on Twitter.

“This isn’t a decision I take lightly nor one I make with any delight. Maintaining local control when possible is a foundational principle of conservative governance; however, the serious violations of state and federal law and accreditation standards, serious financial concerns, lack of internal controls, inappropriate standards of governance, inappropriate oversight by the board, and the continued poor academic performance (among many other factors) no longer make that possible in the HCCSD.”

That is damning. And while Henderson will most certainly claim either/both that he helped improve the situation during his two years or that all this happened after he left, it is just not true. He made egregious hiring decisions. He oversaw contracts handed out to friends and family.

It is only recently that the state of Illinois withdrew its emergency financial control over the Proviso District 209 schools. That direct control over finances went on for years and was a loss of control that this district fully earned.

So we’re not looking at a historically well-run school district. And now we have James Henderson running it.

For the next five years.

Funding Madison Street

We’re not weighing in yet on the virtues of a Special Services Area tax district for Madison Street and parts of Harlem. But we are supportive of the Chamber of Commerce and the village working together to explore this option to raise money to promote and improve our business districts. 

Neither the Chamber nor the village have the funds to do this work. And so we bump along. Exploring a permanent funding source is a wise step.