The newly renovated Proviso East football and track stadium, due to reopen in October, will be named after a sitting District 209 school board member. The decision prompted some pushback from board members who wanted more public input into the renaming process.
The D209 board voted 4-2 on Sept. 14 to accept Supt. James Henderson’s recommendation to name the stadium in honor of Theresa L. Kelly, the longest-serving school board member in the district’s history. Kelly has been on the board for 22 years.
“We’re sitting here, because [Kelly] brought us all together,” said board member Sam Valtierrez who, along with D209 board President Rodney Alexander, Della Patterson and Kelly herself voted in favor of the motion.
School board members Ned Wagner and Amanda Grant voted against the measure while board member Claudia Medina was not present for the vote.
“I would like to ask anybody under the sound of my voice who has volunteered 22 years of anything for free,” said Alexander on Sept. 14. “I’ll wait. … She stayed the course for 22 years while we were off doing whatever we were doing. … We want people to look at that stadium and see what a life of service and dedication looks like.”
Patterson addressed possible pushback from some who might wonder why the board didn’t rename the stadium after an athlete, particularly a successful football player.
“What about all the NFL players? What about them? We’ve had some NFL players come back and do a few football camps for some of our students,” Patterson said. “I can’t recall where there’s been this huge donation from a professional football player.”
But Wagner and Grant said that they would have liked to see more participation from the public before the board made any decision on renaming the stadium.
“I like the idea of putting it out to the community,” Wagner said.
“I really don’t like the idea of naming the stadium after one person when there have been so many people over the years who have had an impact — on the field, off the field,” said Grant.
“The better idea would be putting it out to the community and taxpayers and alumni to see what they would [like to name the stadium],” Grant added, before noting that she would have preferred they simply avoid renaming the stadium.
“When we don’t name it after one person, it continues to belong to everyone,” she said.
“The stadium will still belong to everyone,” Patterson said. “Her name only recognizes her sweat, tears, time, talent and her treasure. I watched the lady buy kids clothes, give kids money and nobody knew about it.”
“We don’t have to honor people who throw a football for a living,” said Alexander. “That’s a sport. Its entertainment. … We want to applaud moving forward community service. We want people to look at that stadium and see what a life of service and dedication looks like.”
The old Proviso East football stadium was demolished late last year as part of the district’s facilities master plan process, which was launched under former D209 superintendent Jesse Rodriguez.
The stadium renovation is part of the first phase of master plan projects, which also included the construction of new parking lots at district schools, and the installation of air conditioning on some floors at Proviso East and West, among other extensive construction work.