Jennifer LaBash (center) speaking during the public comment session at the Feb. 14 Proviso Township High Schools board meeting. (Proviso Township High Schools D209/Screenshot)

A teary-eyed Jennifer LaBash stood at the podium during the public comment session at the Feb. 14 Proviso Township High Schools board meeting to express her love to her former students on that Valentine’s Day. LaBash is a teacher who was fired by the district late last year after she spoke at the October board meeting and accused the board of mismanaging funds.

“I wanted to remind my freshman that roaming the hallways, you know who you are 7th period, during class time is not a good idea,” LaBash said to the board.  “You don’t want to have to go to summer school. … I know that things are stressful and you’re holding it together the best you can. Please keep trying.”

LaBash also reminded her college bound seniors to check they have all the credits needed to graduate and to look for scholarships. She urged her students pursuing a career in the trades that several local unions have opportunities that they should look into.

“To my students, you are worth it. You are worth me being up here. You are worth my absence … you are worth the struggle. Your lives mean everything to us. Please take care until I come back,” she concluded.

The past school year has seen several highly contentious District 209 board meetings where dozens of students, teachers, parents, and community members angrily voiced concerns over alleged retaliation toward teachers and students, understaffing, questionable financial management, and more. The board meeting on Feb. 14th had lower attendance than those last fall, but some community members present continued to voice concerns that they’ve been raising over the past year.

Ashley Stohl, a high school student, spoke about a video published on the district’s official YouTube page that allegedly spread misinformation. The video claims that the discipline of teachers and students was not done out of retaliation and that they had broken district policy related to electioneering and vandalism.

“I’m just tired. I’m honestly sick and tired of being lied to by an administration who is supposed to be working for the students,” Stohl said to the board.

In the course of the meeting the board gave special recognition to social studies teacher Robert Sylvan and his students. Each year Sylvan has his students write a letter to the sitting President of the United States. This year, a student actually got a response from the president.

Superintendent James Henderson also announced that the Illinois State Board of Education has accepted the corrective actions taken regarding the multilingual department after a directive was delivered to address some issues.

The board then viewed updates from several departments that went over things such as data on the percentage of students on track to graduate, the number of applications to the Math and Science Academy, the various Alternative Learning Opportunities Programs and more.

The board also heard a proposal to spend $71 million which can be made available for capital improvement projects from a combination of funds from buying existing local bonds and state funds to improve buildings for 2024 and 2025.

At the end of the meeting the board voted to continue a dual enrollment program for students to receive credit for courses at Triton College after school. So far about 60 students are enrolled.