Eight people are running for the three open seats on the Proviso Township High School District 209 school board in what is likely to be a contentious campaign ahead of the April 4, 2023 election.
Incumbent school board members Theresa Kelly and Claudia Medina have filed to run for reelection while Ned Wagner will not seek reelection. All three candidates were on the first slate created by the Proviso Together party. Kelly, Medina and Wagner were elected together in 2015 and again in 2019.
Three more candidates with the newly formed Proviso 209 Cooperative have filed to run for board seats: Jennifer Wenzel Barbahen, David Ocampo and Sandra Lee Hixson. Three other candidates have also filed though any affiliations are unclear at this moment. They are Maribel Aguirre of Hillside, Jayda James of Hillside and Jon Kubricht of Forest Park.
Earlier this year, the Proviso Together party dissolved, months after relationships between some members of the party had fractured, with tensions often spilling out into the open during board meetings.
The April election could be a referendum on the performance of D209 Supt. James Henderson, who was hired in 2020. The board has since given the superintendent two 5-year contracts, with Kelly joining board majorities in voting for both of them. Medina has voted against the contracts.
Since his hiring, Henderson has overseen a nearly month-long teacher strike, a mass exodus of veteran teachers and staff, complaints about a lack of financial transparency, allegations of intimidation among current and former employees, and widespread frustration with his leadership style.
In an interview earlier this year, Barbahen and Kathleen Franzwa, the co-founders of Proviso 209 Cooperative, said they started the group, which might be considered a successor to Proviso Together, to hold Henderson accountable.
School board candidates had until Dec. 19 to file their nominating petitions with the Cook County Clerk’s office. The last day to file objections to nominating petitions is Dec. 27. Write-in candidates have until Feb. 2 to file a declaration of intent to run with the clerk’s office.