The Forest Park Review sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The candidates’ replies are as shown as they were received by the Review. For more on a candidate, click their name or photo.
1. Please describe what, in your opinion, have been specific accomplishments made by District 209 over the past two years.
The Facility Master Plan (FMP) started under the former Superintendent in 2017 and continues to make progress and improvements needed to all three Proviso school buildings. New parking lot and green space at PMSA, air conditioning and HVAC improvements at Proviso East and West. While still a work in progress, Parent Advisory Councils have been established at East and West. There is an active PTO at PMSA. And while PAC expectations, procedures and structure are being worked out, there is a way for parents to get involved.
The specific accomplishments I have observed over the past two years are:
- The perseverance of the students, teachers, staff, and administrators to maintain student involvement and achievement during a global pandemic. My own son graduated from PMSA in 2021 and I was appreciative of all the efforts that were made to help make his Senior year the best it could be under the circumstances.
- The maintaining and enhancing of facilities has been an accomplishment. As a PE Alum, it was a very beautiful moment to attend the new football field dedication and step on that field. My pride was heightened!
- The initiatives to involve parents and community members in the district. As a parent, I appreciate the “open door” that has been presented so when I have the time, I am able to be as active as I choose in my daughter’s high school endeavors.
In my opinion, the District has made some headway in bringing the PMSA programs into East and West. They have continued programs our students are interested in, cosmetology/barber programs. They have also made gains in the areas of construction by following through on the five-year Master Plan Dr. Rodriquez started for all three schools.
We’ve had several significant and in some cases, historical accomplishments over the past two years:
- We are proud of the fact that this is the first time in ten years Proviso East has been removed from the list of lowest performing high schools in Illinois.
- District 209 will generate 71 million for capital improvement during FY 24/25 at no tax rate impact to our community, no impact to operating funds and no impact to our fund balance.
- We have a $82 million fund balance at an extremely low 2% tax rate – Which is very low compared to many of our neighboring districts.
- The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program will have opportunities on all three campuses.
- Evening school to increase graduation rate and focus on college, careers with the intent to decrease drop out rates.
- 8 period day schedule established at all three schools for Academic Equity
- First phase of facility upgrades – completed $12 million on time and on budget.
- PMSA ranked 6 in State of Illinois by U.S. News and World Report.
- Freshmen on track to graduate has increased significantly from 68% to 85% the biggest jump ever in D209
- Quality of life and academic environment upgrades targeting our HVAC system to bring air conditioning to all floors of all buildings, townshipwide by the end of 2024.
- Transportation available for PMSA families for the first time in the school’s history.
- Advance manufacturing: metals, welding; students receive credentials to work in the industry, giving them necessary hands-on experience.
- Launched “Parents on Patrol’ -an initiative that placed parents in our campus hallways.
- “Northbound Train to Greatness” newsletter offers insights and information on what’s happening in and around D209.
- Robust Summer School Program for credit recovery and graduation goals.
- Communication Internship Program – Introducing students to the world of public relations.
- New beautiful state of the art football stadium and NCAA compatible outdoor track at Proviso East.
- The Illinois State Seal of Biliteracy – presented at graduation in recognition of attaining a high level of proficiency in English and one or more additional languages.
They have done a tremendous job cutting expenses to the detriment of the quality of the education our students have been receiving, and the resources provided to our teachers. To that end, I feel that the most significant accomplishment this administration has achieved lies in the unprecedented, and utter mismanagement of our school district, funded of course, by us the taxpayers. I mean to say that the superintendent has successfully alienated our teachers, demoralized both the students and faculty of Proviso, and destroyed, in record time, what took eight years to build. The incompetence of the sitting board majority, as well as of the superintendent himself has left the district in shambles. This must change.
As a sitting board member seeing what has unfolded in our district over the past two years, makes this a very difficult question to answer. Of the strategic initiatives Dr. Henderson proposed upon arrival, none have been met. Our whole staff is in trauma over the leadership style and fear for their jobs. Every time we see a cost savings, there are crucial jobs being cut, services unfulfilled and positions that are needed, eliminated which are touted as cost savings. The Five-year Strategic plan for improving academic outcomes never came to fruition. The following goals were stated and addressed to the Board and community stakeholders’:
- Transparency, trust, and collaboration would be his mode of operating to ensure effective and positive Board – Superintendent Relations.
- Increase student achievement and close the achievement gaps for ALL students.
- Increase organizational effectiveness and efficiency by providing excellent support and service to schools, students, and parents in each city of the PTHSD community.
- Create a culture of trust
- Establish trust and confidence from the community at-large by creating opportunities to listen and learn from a multitude of stakeholders.
Dr. Henderson has not met one of these goals and has never been evaluated for this failure. Only rewarded with a five-year contract with a substantial contractual increase by the sitting board majority, coined a “Golden parachute” by the community.
Since Dr. Henderson’s he has gotten rid of Deans, cut security, gutted the technology team, increased class sizes significantly, ceased to report outlandish credit card expenses, engaged in several no bid contracts and special payroll contracts for friends and family of his and certain board members. The system he created is producing fear and violence, dismantling the progress we had made. When you cut security, you’re cutting the safety of the students that are placed in our care. Security is not just physical, but also emotional.
Student achievement and investment has plummeted with the implementation of his policies. According to the latest ISBE Report card data, District 209 devotes only 29% of its budget to the instruction of students, far below the state average. Our spending habits do not reflect equitable instruction for Proviso students. D209 gutted over $6 million from support services, in a district where the English Learner population increased considerably in recent years. Our district now has one of the highest chronic truancy rates in the State of Illinois, and we have no attendance policy being implemented.
Proviso invests only 29% of the budget in students, as reported in the Illinois State report card. While neighboring districts like Morton (HSD 201) allocate 45% of its tax base to student instruction and Lyons Township (HSD 204) contributes 55% of its budget to the instruction of students. We are on the wrong track and it shows, we have done better and can change direction. I have been there to do so before and will do it again.
Implementation of the Facility Master Plan (FMP) from prior Superintendent is being implemented. HVAC and improvements across the three campuses. The introduction of the girls’ wrestling program is noteworthy.
2. Dr. James Henderson has had both supporters and critics of his administration since his appointment as superintendent of Proviso Township High School. Please provide your opinion of the work he has done at D209, including his relationship with faculty, his communications with parents and community, his management of a complex organization through a pandemic.
As a Proviso parent and community member I have not seen any evaluations from the board of education on Dr. Henderson’s work performance, even though yearly evaluations are required in his contract. No data has been presented from the Board or district regarding success, or lack thereof, of the changes implemented during Dr. Henderson’s tenure in D209. The outside data provided from the Illinois School Report Card and the Illinois 5Essentials Survey, shows that Dr. Henderson has not been successful.
The district, under Dr. Henderson’s leadership, has undergone tremendous changes and restructuring with no clear key performance indicators provided. The community does not have access to the data driven effects on student performance under these changes over the last 2 school years. With the changes and restructuring of Dean positions, Special Education services, English Language Learner (ELL) services, College and Career Counselors, the IT department restructured, food service brought in-house and the plan for transportation to be brought in-house, are the students provided the resources they need to succeed?
As an involved parent, I have witnessed the management style of Dr. Henderson through the lens of his employment actions, resource allocation decisions, and contract negotiations. The start to each school year is a public demonstration of the management abilities of each Superintendent and if we look at the start of SY 22-23 as an indicator of Dr. Henderson’s ability to manage our district, there are improvements to be made. Parent engagement with Dr. Henderson started on a good path, Dr. Henderson created the Superintendents’ Parent Advisory Council (SPAC) which met for the first time on Thursday, October 15th, 2020, and then met monthly during the school year. I was a part of that advisory council until it was cancelled indefinitely by Dr. Henderson in December of 2021. The energy of the meetings changed over time when parent advisory members started asking questions and wanting transparent answers about the plans to address the issues facing our schools. Dr. Henderson eliminated opportunities to communicate and build stronger bonds with parents and as a result parents and community members are not getting positive, accurate and timely information on a consistent basis.
Speaking to Dr. Henderson’s relationship with faculty we have witnessed the district experiencing unprecedented turnover in educators, counselors, admin, and security. The working environment for our teachers and staff is the learning environment for our students and the working environment right now is not healthy. District 209 is not able to retain and attract quality educators because of the broken relationships with Dr. Henderson. The community has witnessed retaliatory actions against educators, unprofessional attacks on parents and community on social media, violent outbursts, and interactions with board members with no accountability for those behaviors from the board of education. The lack of positive relationships is contributing to the negative climate in Proviso and is detrimental to the districts mission of Equity, Excellence, Relevance for ALL.
I, honestly, do not have an opinion of Dr. Henderson because I have not had an opportunity to get to know him well enough. As a Board Member, it will be a goal to get to know him and work with him to ensure that policies and procedures are equitable and beneficial for students, first and foremost.
Dr. Henderson was hired with the hope that he would be able to continue the progress and pathways set by the prior administration. He was hired and then the pandemic hit, not an ideal situation, for anyone. But the pandemic is not an excuse for the failure to create thriving relationships with staff. It is part of the duties he was hired to perform.
Dr. Henderson’s relationships with staff have proven to be difficult and at times contentious. One of the most important things an organization can do for its employees is to make them feel valued. Superintendents must be evaluated properly per board and state policy. Through evaluation and coaching, the board can determine whether our one employee is able to make any needed behavioral changes to ensure we’re able to move relationships and this district forward.
His management of a complex organization through a pandemic.
The pandemic would have been an ideal time for him to take the time to establish relationships with all stakeholders and evaluate our processes. Instead, he chose to use that time to “restructure” key areas without proper evaluations and audits. This created huge gaps in key areas that students needed to be successful like food services, Technology, SPED, ELL services, etc. These areas have continued to suffer. We must remember that when systems suffer, our students suffer. I believe that Dr. Henderson has not shown that he has been effective in the management of our organization through the pandemic and beyond.
Dr. Henderson’s communications with parents and the community
As a former employee and through my connections within the community, I began to hear from many disgruntled parents and people in the community. They spoke of the chaos, lack of communication, and divisiveness they were experiencing from the administration. In my opinion, I thought it was perhaps his management style that seemed a bit abrasive, the parents and taxpayers were concerned.
I met with Dr. Henderson in an informal setting, as a taxpayer and a former employee of D209, during his first year as superintendent. After our conversation, I became concerned about his ability to create a positive and enriching educational and work environment. However, I understood that one conversation is not enough to evaluate someone’s intentions and ability. Gradually as time went on, I noticed that we, as a community, needed to do something, this was not the time to lose communication with our community, it was not the time to cut off our community partners and trusted allies to the district. I didn’t see the organization and attention to student needs that the times demanded. Dr. Henderson removed valuable resources from students and made draconian cuts that deeply impacted our students’ access to their education and the school district’s basic functions. Some could say those items could have cost savings but without a firm plan on replacement sources and added pressure to an already pressed staff has proven difficult these last few years.
I believe anytime a superintendent comes into a new high school program there are significant challenges that he faces. Especially if one of them is underperforming. When a school is underperforming and on the state watch list a new superintendent has to make changes in order to close the trajectory as to where the school is headed. Those decisions are tough and sometimes unpopular but they are necessary to change the status of that school from underperforming to target. Which is extremely noticeable for a new superintendent. These are tough decisions to change structures and sometimes not popular within the community but have proven to be affective and successful under his tenure. When you review the accomplishments of the last two years overall it shows that his leadership has been good. Now I do believe there is room for improvement. I believe he could do a better job communicating with the community. and I know he is working to address it with the new newsletter that is going out weekly.
The pandemic was tough for everyone. Every school district across the country. I believe Dr. Henderson’s leadership helped us through this pandemic. When you compare how our school faired through this pandemic compared to some schools across the country . Being able to keep our students academically progressing while overseeing a multi million dollar facility plan. I think that’s a notable accomplishment no matter how you look at it. Whether you are a supporter or a critic, I think that’s a notable accomplishment.
In all of my career, I have never seen such blatant ignorance, mismanagement, incompetence, and worst of all such little integrity as exhibited by Dr. James Henderson. This level of corruption and dishonesty is unfamiliar to me. His relationship to the faculty is toxic, he is unresponsive to parents, and misleading to the community at large. His management of the district, through his cutting of student services, doing away with support staff and security, have left the teachers and the students scrambling and vulnerable. This was especially true during the reopening following the pandemic when we saw an unprecedented increase in violence and mayhem in all three schools as only one of the many grave consequences I fear will plague our community for the years to come. I feel that his removal of the majority of deans, counselors, and mental health staff was the main fuel to fire this issue with the reopening.
Throughout the pandemic the Superintendent did not wear a mask or have a fail-safe procedure or protocol that kept staff and students informed about the risk, safety and spread of Covid in the schools. During the Pandemic Teachers, staff and students were afraid. There was no follow through on masking, ventilation investment, sanitation and reporting who was sick, where, or how long to isolate defying state regulation to stop the spread of Covid in our schools. Some teachers, students and staff had to leave due to illness, or family obligations and there was little to none support regarding the risk involved for teachers and families returning to the school. The lack of preparation in the roll out to student return to classes and care for the students was inexcusable.
The District Administrative Organization has been restructured. Said structure does not support the faculty, has put more work on the teachers, and does not support student needs. The rotation of administrators clearly depicts his inability to create a vision and follow through and has created chaos and instability in our schools leaving families to scramble to try and find out any basic things about their students.
Dr. Henderson exercises a tyrannical style of governance. Several of his hires were made due to previous relationships and or familial ties. Professionals that loved and supported our students have left and contracts were not renewed for several of our long time administrators leaving an institutional vacuum for district knowledge fundamental to our operations. consequently, the district now cycles through a ludicrous number of administrators and no- bid outside consultants with previous ties to the superintendent. We need ethical leadership which has the power to bring people together and foster enthusiasm with excitement and ambition of building our district. We need our educational staff to thrive and be supported with the possibility of growing as a person, of growing within the institution. A leadership that offers the opportunity to improve, to do good, and to be treated honorably. A despotic leader can only have employees or accomplices, never collaborators or partners; followers, but never colleagues, and therefore impactful Educators are leaving our district. We are hemorrhaging teachers.
The results have been plummeting performance, evident in the data which shows no positive educational direction. Books are scarce to nonexistent in essential classes, and we are no longer investing our resources for student excellence. Teachers have not been provided essential supplies for their classes that started in September. Classroom budgets are not being funded, yet teachers are consistently criticized for their performance. Currently we are under investigation of our Ell( English language learners) and Special Ed lack of State compliance. Our students experience and needs are not being met, and when teachers have advocated, they are threatened or fired. Excellence should not be optional, but a requirement. We had been on such an upward trend, and we can bring it back, the work is essential.
Dr. Henderson joined the Proviso school district during a period of uncertainty. His leadership and actions, however, have worsened the learning environment. He has gutted the IT department to the point that the skeleton crew is overwhelmed and can barely service our students and faculty with hardware and software needs. Lack of transportation continues to plague the district. The execution of the bus contract with First Student at the last minute did not demonstrate proper planning. To this day, the public hasn’t seen any evaluations on his performance. As a taxpayer, I am concerned with the management of my tax dollars. His relationship with faculty, students and the community is rocky, at best. I’ve witnessed his Facebook tirades against the community.
3. As a board member, how would you respond to complaints and protests brought by students concerned with their education?
First and foremost, listen, with respect and with intention to truly hear and understand the students’ experience.
- Students should feel empowered to share their voice regarding their education and provided with opportunities to engage and be included in improving the educational experience and outcomes for all students and trust that it is a safe space to speak.
- Create a clear structured path and opportunities within our school buildings by supportive administration, that will provide students an effective way to voice concerns and more importantly having their concerns addressed.
- Ensure that Citizens’ Comments at Board of Education meetings are conducted without censorship, harassment, and demeaning comments.
- Include the student voice in board of education meetings through Student Achievement Committees that will partner, engage, and empower our student voices.
As a Board member, I am going to encourage students to express themselves in a positive and productive way. We have learned from different leaders ways to fight and protest so that our voices can be heard. I will respond to respectful complaints and protests with a listening ear and will encourage students, and adults as well, to come to the table not with just complaints and problems, but with feasible solutions.
Unfortunately, having a disgruntled parent screaming to you is a painful experience. As a previous board member for a school district, I have listened to the parent’s concerns regarding their student and had to develop an action plan to help them find a solution. We realize currently, we need to rebuild trust with our community. One of the things we did on my previous board was to designate the first Saturday of the month as a forum for students, parents, and the community to work on resolutions to enrich the educational growth of our students. After each meeting, we discussed our strengths and weaknesses and created a plan to tackle them.
To me, a students voice is of the utmost importance, this is the reason I am here, so my ultimate goal is to insure that I listen attentively to students and the community. If something is bothering our students I am and have always been approachable and have always had time to talk with a student and/or a parent. Our students know that I also support them. I support them by attending first day of school, Bring your Parent to School Day, athletic events, plays, NJROTC Ball, NJROTC Inspections and etc. Some even call me Mother Theresa because of my listening ear and compassion for all children. Students and parents have direct access to the board of Education members and they have direct access to the superintendent.
As my first priority, I would consider the complaints brought on by our scholars to be completely valid. I would be sympathetic and supportive of their concerns regarding their futures, and work together with teachers and administrators to ensure that the needs of our students are being met throughout the district. I Plan to collaborate closely with our faculty to ensure that all decisions being made not only put our students’ concerns to rest but also improve the educational environment for all.
Students are the voice we need to listen to. As a long time educator and advocate, I have always listened to our students, met with them, and heard their concerns. They live the policies we enact. As a local school board, we are required to adopt and enforce all policies necessary for the management and governance of the public schools. Our written policies guide the board, which directs and empowers the superintendent to function as chief executive officer in managing day-to-day district operations. The Current board majority does not follow through on any of the policy violations committed by the Superintendent. Accountability is essential to maintain a student-centered focus, and credibility. Not in 209. Instead of investing in teachers and relationships which change student learning we have invested in programs like Epiphany that are owned and operated by a close friend of the superintendent. The program has not addressed student learning needs, or enhanced student performance, in fact it has dropped. This makes no sense. (Programs I have not voted for). Other spending continues to escalate at a rate more than double the state average and it has been prioritized over the instruction of our students! The Policy and spending allocations in the district are directly impacting the future of our students. Students do not get to relive their high school experience, we need to make it the best one, because it is their only one!
The actions the Board majority has continuously engaged in, speaking to those attending in a condescending tone, accusing others of racial inequity, interrupting, and shouting down speakers, has accelerated and amplified the tensions in our district. The unprofessional tone our board has taken is alarming. We need to promote thoughtful policy and compliance, these are the backbones of a well-functioning and effective boards. What we need are return to forums for the community, the ability for students to voice concerns, listen and engage our community in Town halls that promote dialogue, bring empathy and care for our students back to the board room, and focus on actions and policy that directly impacts students positively. This will bring proper functioning of our district. What we currently experience is an angry free-for-all, and it is this Board’s actions that are to blame. As board members we are required to study the needs of students and the community. Our decisions should be based on those needs. Equity needs to start first in the board room, it is hard to have an open mind if you do not have an open heart. Embracing diversity, equity, inclusion, representation, and an overall sense of belonging can significantly change perceptions of the world around you and change the student experience quickly. As the first latina ever elected to 209, it has meant a lot to the students to see leadership that looks and sounds like them, most importantly that cares about them. Representation matters.
Responses from students should be treated with the utmost respect and urgency. Policies and procedures should be followed when addressing issues and should be respected at all levels – faculty, administration and board. However, assuming all issues have the same severity, I would like to document these issues to identify trends. Are we seeing an increase in a particular complaint? Let’s also allocate time to community workshops to better address ongoing issues and increase community engagement. Solutions require all parties at the table. We won’t know if we’re improving without valuable feedback from our community.
4. Do you believe that the strike by teachers last year was unavoidable? How do you believe the district benefited by the strike’s resolution?
The historic 2022 teachers’ strike in D209 was avoidable. Negotiations between the district and the Proviso Teachers Union should have begun, and in good faith, prior to the previous contract expiration in June of 2021 to ensure that an agreement was met before teachers, librarians, social workers, and school counselors were working without a contract. The collective bargaining agreement is a contract between the Proviso Teachers Union and the District 209 Board of Education, yet no board member sat in on negotiations. A negotiation team on behalf of the district should have been established instead of the Superintendent alone, who lacks experience with union strong states. A significant goal of the district was to make East and West into an 8-period day schedule, an equitable change that was needed. However, the resources needed to implement an 8-period day successfully were not provided by the district. The PTU advocated for students’ needs as well as competitive compensation during negotiations requesting smaller class sizes. Efforts to bargain in good faith were questioned at board meetings which was followed by a series of unsubstantiated claims in several incendiary documents released by the district against the PTU, using district resources, that only served to intensify tensions. Financially the district may have gained short term from not increasing salaries to be competitive with surrounding districts, but the fallout is that D209 lost talented educators and professionals. With the growing number of teacher vacancies and lack of successful recruitment efforts the Superintendent and the Board made further cuts to the number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) teachers increasing class sizes and ultimately contributing extensively to the beginning school year chaos. Any financial savings from the district are now being consumed by paying teachers to take a 6th period assignment. The district did not benefit from the strikes resolution because it ultimately ended up exacerbating our teacher and staff shortage and retention issues, resulting in classroom overcrowding, lack of consistent teachers and an increase in utilization of online learning platforms that do not benefit our students.
I believe that a strike is always unavoidable. I have been in education contract negotiations and used the Interest Based Bargaining (IBB) method so as a Board Member, I would suggest this format in the future as I saw it yielded positive results. As an Educator for 25 years, I have never been on strike. I was Vice President of my union and always made efforts to listen, pick the important battles, and be cooperative in all situations. I do not believe anyone benefited from the strike or its resolution simply because it still bears a heavy weight on our district.
I believe the strike could have been averted. The teachers did not want to strike. The issue of not having any sitting board member on the negotiating team, to me is unheard of. Unfortunately, our students were deeply impacted by the strike. Learning loss and stress, along with a scramble to get them prepared and out the door for graduating seniors was nothing short of a travesty. Conditions where we are facing a teacher shortage and our district was not more prepared to attract and retain good teachers make it hard to see a benefit to the taxpayers or to the quality of the student’s educational opportunities within the district.
Yes, it absolutely could have and should have been avoided. They first said they would not strike and then later they said they were going to strike. Nobody wins in a teachers strike , in our case the students lost, the teachers lost, the administration lost, the community lost…there were no winners. I believe there could have been more transparency and in some cases, more honesty on both sides to the community as well as the union to their members. I believe if the numbers and facts were presented properly the strike would have been avoided.
A positive is, a strike of any kind wakes people up and invigorates the community. Anytime you can have community involvement whether in agreement or not, it’ s a move towards the positive. Now it’s up to all the stakeholders to keep the attention of the community to move our District above and beyond minimal expectations …To greatness.
I don’t believe the strike was unavoidable under the conditions imposed on our faculty by the superintendent, these being the withholding of a fair and equitable offer on the part of the administration from the beginning. The benefits seen by the district came in the form of tremendous savings stemming from the lowering of educational quality seen in all three schools. Ultimately, I do not believe that the district really benefited in any way, much less our student body and faculty.
The strike was completely avoidable. The results have had no benefit to the district, teachers, or students. Henderson’s negotiation created utter chaos. As the sole district negotiator, he did not show up to meetings consistently for over a year. Then the union members voted overwhelmingly — 98% — to authorize a strike. The inconsistent negotiations attendance by Dr. Henderson consisted of a narrative to the that Union that he did not have the authority of the board to provide what the teachers sought. The contract was negotiated with no board members present to support integrity of negotiation as had been done in the past. To the board, Dr. Henderson suggested very low salary increases citing teacher incompetence. His rhetoric to the board has been to discredit teachers due to grades, test scores and skin color. This consistent narrative from the Superintendent has promoted the idea that most of the teaching staff was not representative of the black and brown community they served. The effect is evident, division. The strike wrought chaos, teacher resignations and students experience has been impacted with lack of services, compliance and Student needs not being met. Educational leaders should inspire the staff and support them for excellence.
The teachers effectively received a demotion, larger class sizes, more class assignments, and no student benefit. Union members were seeking an agreement that would attract and retain education professionals to ensure our primarily Black and Brown students receive high-quality education. The result of the negotiation on the district has been touted as a cost savings by the board majority. There is now an 8-period day for the district, which is beneficial, but the Superintendent increased class sizes to 35 students per class, rather than hiring more teachers to effectively staff the district, he lowered the teacher count. The district has now become academically and professionally impossible for teachers to address student needs.
The roll out of those negotiation decisions, then brought chaos in class schedules, lack of transportation, security for the students, and the use of online credit recovery classes to supplement our teacher shortage. Students, staff and teachers are frustrated, scared and desperate. When they have come to the board to protest the impact being experienced, they have been received by attacks by the sitting and previous board president.
It could have been avoided with proper, respectful dialog and having a board member present during negotiations. The educators did not want to strike, but it was their last resort to call attention to the lack of a contract. Educators currently face less-than-ideal working conditions: increased class sizes, lack of resources and support. The stress created by the situation compounded now with an ongoing severe teacher shortage is affecting our students negatively.
5. If you are elected to what continues to be a divided school board, what skills would you bring to governing productively?
I am focused on creating stronger bonds between myself and all other school board members and strengthening the bonds by restoring civil interactions between the school board and all stakeholders: students, teachers, parents, community, and taxpayers. I am ready to participate responsibly and respectfully, as a school board member, serving all children with decisions and thoughtful actions driven by data and a student first focus. I would bring to the board over 15 years of risk management experience including navigating complex interpersonal relationships while maintaining a respectful way to dissent to differing opinions. We have a chance to establish fresh relationships with fellow board members, staff and community members and a chance to build trust in our roles as the trustees for the Proviso district and Proviso communities. Good governance requires that the board be responsible for itself, its processes and contributions and that means establishing accountability for all.
The most important skill I bring is my ability to effectively communicate (speaking and listening). I am connected to the different stakeholders as I am a parent, educator, community member, administrator, and alum. I can speak with the voice of all these groups and listen with my ear as well. As a Board Member, I want to be a part of what is good and working in D209. I am a product and parent of this district and want to help paint a more positive picture for the world to see by working with my fellow Board Members and Superintendent.
It always comes back to the students and protecting our investment, being focused on the task at hand through management conflict resolutions, previous board experience, and understanding of what’s at stake; the student’s educational success. I can be calm in the face of adversity. During my time as an educator, and with my board experience, I know how important it is to focus on the work, not on personalities. I understand the board process and the need to not waste public time. Accountability and integrity to the process are extremely important to me. My ability to be an active listener and knowing when it’s time to do the work and when it’s time to move on will be key.
Let me break the misconception that some people have. A divided board is not necessarily a bad thing. Abraham Lincoln had a team of rivals in his cabinet. sometimes you need differentiating opinions to help add balance to the board. I’n the end, we are working on one accord and we will continue to work for the betterment of the district. We’ve had several accomplishments over the last 2 years. I believe we can accomplish more as a team working for the community.
As a business owner, I have extensive experience in budgeting, accounting, finance, contract negotiations, litigation, amongst many other things. I plan to implement a cost saving strategy that maximizes the quality of the educational environment experienced by our students. This strategy would include the increasing of teacher and support staff retention, which would effectively stabilize the learning environment and give students consistency throughout their day at school. Any cost savings can be used to develop additional extracurricular and educational programs that would enrich the learning experience of all students. Such programs would include areas of study in the arts, music, and even participation in physical activities.
I will promote thoughtful policy and compliance, the backbones of a well-functioning and effective board, using experience, data, transparency, documentation, and implement transparent hiring protocols. I would immediately apply OMA compliance to board communication.
As part of a group that turned this District around before, by ensuring transparent protocols were followed, and we did so with accountability, compliance, and in-depth study of cost analysis prior to voting or proposing any program or change in the district. You have to go slow to go fast a wise man once said.
As a board, a divided one at that, we rebuilt and refocused information items into board books, so a month before any action item was presented to the board, we could see the budget, what fund it was coming from, what the cost benefit would be for the district, the students, or the staff. Decisions were made collaboratively. This provided an opportunity for conversation, questions, and teamwork. Prior to voting on any project, contract, we had special board meeting and did outreach with the community. This needs to return. We had implemented committees, information sessions and town halls where questions from stakeholders were respected and answered. Information items were discussed. When the body of the whole is presented with District decisions, vision and work, the return is, healthy decisions necessary for District Governance. With the current expensive “Chat and Chews”. We have made crass mistakes and are not ever in a place where we discuss the future of the district as a team. Select board members receive pertinent information for governance, others of us do not receive any, in this manner we will continue the “Circus”.
My dedication to my community as a teacher, administrator and education consultant and first latina elected to the board, has been to make Proviso a choice for every student to desire to come to our district and we were on that path. I am a student focused educator sitting on the board. The only board educator that continuously asks for the best for all our students. I govern first with my heart for the best interest of the kids. Parents and students deserve to have the district be the choice. To be able to choose the best education and future for their high school students using their tax dollars. Are we there yet? Not having any other option available leaves many families questioning the options that we are providing. Open communication, information items, and respect for Diverse and different opinions is crucial to impacting all students and staff needs in the District. Our many backgrounds, experiences, interests, and passions create a beautiful and unique world that impact our community. The combinations of these differences enable us to connect unexpectedly, which entangles the rich tapestry that Maya Angelou speaks of in the quote below.
“The workplace (District) is one of the best scenarios where these differences can engage, support, challenge, and inspire curiosity. Championing diversity in an organization leads to better outcomes and greater success for individuals and teams.”
Being productive on the board requires cohesion, unity and strong interpersonal skills. The board must demonstrate trust and maintain respectful dialog with all stakeholders. As a servant leader within my community, I have volunteered in serving the youth from teaching them financial literacy to life skills in the scouts. I am ready to offer my skills as a data engineer/analyst and lessons from life experiences to improve our district. Sandra, Jenny and I offer a fresh perspective and are confident that we can help move the district forward.
Maribel Aguirre did not submit responses.