It is a show of respect that so many people simply call her Mrs. Kelly. The longtime board member at the District 209 Proviso Township High Schools has earned that title for her two-decades-plus of service on what has been a difficult, corrupt, failed, rising and now retreating school board.
However it is preposterous that a narrow majority of the current board — including most ridiculously Kelly herself — voted Sept. 14 to name the newly constructed football facility at Proviso East Theresa Kelly Stadium.
There’s lots of blame for this embarrassment. We’ll start with James R. Thompson, the longtime governor of Illinois, whose debilitating narcissism allowed the then-new State of Illinois Building to be named the James R. Thompson Center. That’s one reason we sort of chuckle over plans to demolish the white elephant or better yet to, as recently floated, convert it into an indoor water park.
Big public facilities, or private facilities dependent on government, should only be named after dead people. Preferably honorable dead people.
So there’s Big Jim with the big ego. More currently there is state Sen. Kimberly Lightford. A local, a legislator, the Senate Majority Leader, with a lot to recommend her. However, she unwisely allowed her name to be affixed to the remodeled ER at Loretto Hospital on the West Side.
Let’s see. State money did the remodeling. She’s a state senator. She’s on the board of Loretto Hospital, a safety net institution, where the only headlines over the past year have been about insider dealings and lax oversight by its board.
Lightford also has her name on a Maywood Park District facility where she also helped target state funding for a full overhaul.
Back at Proviso East we have a new football stadium fully paid for by taxpayers. The old stadium never had a name. Now, though, Dr. James Henderson, the not-to-be-trusted new superintendent of the district, recommended slapping Kelly’s name on the edifice. What better way to butter up a needed vote on the board than by naming a building for her?
Two school board members — Amanda Grant and Ned Wagner — had the sense to oppose this out-of-the-blue idea. Another board member, Claudia Medina, would surely have voted no if she were at the meeting. That left President Rodney Alexander, Della Patterson, Sam Valtierrez, and, yes, Kelly herself to do the deed.
How she could not recuse herself from this vote reflects much of what is going wrong in this deteriorating school district.
Could have been the Stadium With No Name. Or Pirates Stadium. Or sell the naming rights to Wintrust. That bank wants its name on everything.
But Theresa Kelly Stadium is a revealing embarrassment in the quest for good governance.