There is nothing normal going on in Proviso Township High School leadership — administration or school board. Scheduled school board meetings should not start hours late because the school board is enjoying a catered dinner, certainly not while nearly 100 citizens — parents, students and teachers — have gathered to sound off on deteriorating conditions.
School board meetings should not be abruptly ended because the school board president is miffed at the criticism the district is receiving. The citizens who turned out for the Nov. 15 meeting had a long list of valid frustrations — from a lack of teachers in classrooms to a failing transportation program, overcrowded classes, and more.
And then there was the agenda item calling for the board to fire four veteran teachers — teachers of color no less — on the stunning premise that they had enflamed upset students into launching public protests.
So many concerns here, ranging from the U.S. Constitution to the disturbing mindset of Supt. James Henderson who called for the firings.
Of course that decision was tabled when the meeting was called short by Della Patterson, the board president.
What a bizarre circus.
Also not normal was the pre-meeting protest of the proposed firings. We get and we support the protest. We understand the roles of the Proviso Teachers Union and even the Chicago Teachers Union in speaking at the protest. We applaud the students leading the protest.
But what was far from ordinary were the speaking roles of Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins and Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey. Elected leaders of government bodies go out of their way not to criticize their elected counterparts. So for Hoskins and Harvey to go public with direct criticism of D209’s plan to fire these teachers is remarkable and admirable.
It reflects their understanding that there is something out of control going on in District 209 that has to be publicly called out.
As Hoskins said, “We do not make it our business to tell a separate elected body how to conduct theirs. … We would simply say to the board that terminating four very experienced teachers would not be in the interests of the students.”
Now is the time for all those with sincere concerns about the chaos in this school district to make their cases publicly, to lay this all out to Proviso residents as we move toward a critical school board election in April.
Thanks, Joe Byrnes
Joe Byrnes has served Forest Park for decades as a police officer and department leader, as a park board commissioner and, for the past eight years as a village commissioner.
This week he tells the Review what has seemed clear for a time. He is retiring at the end of the current term.
His career has been distinguished. His service generous and so fully Forest Park rooted.
Good for him, too, in acknowledging that it is time for generational change and new ideas on the council. A final successful reflection of his leadership.