At the Feb. 14 Proviso Township High Schools District 209 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent (James) Henderson presented his plan to issue a $71 million bond purchase for future renovation projects. The D209 board’s originally accepted plan was to space out the renovations over a few years, focusing as much funding as possible on projects related to student success. The superintendent’s reasoning for the bond is to complete all the renovations now to combat inflation and prices. At face this seems reasonable, however with 30 months of Henderson and his board majority’s extreme mismanagement and chaos, it is clear this is a terrible plan.
For over two years Superintendent Henderson has engaged in extreme financial mismanagement with support from board members Theresa Kelly, Della Patterson, Rodney Alexander, Samuel Valtierrez and Ned Wagner, known as the Henderson 5. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been misspent on Henderson and his cronies instead of students: over $13,000 on a township-wide mailer to disparage a board member, placed friends in district positions with salaries well above range, thousands on lunches at high end restaurants, out of state “consultants” and more. Additionally, tens of thousands of dollars are spent on district credit cards each month with no transparency or accountability for these charges. Monthly financial reports and bank account levels presented at each board meeting do not match up. Despite what the Henderson 5 would have you believe; the district is NOT transparent or accountable with its finances.
Payment of the $71 million that Superintendent Henderson and his board majority intend to bond includes $33 million in property taxes and redirecting $4.5 million per year in state funding from the Evidence Based Funding for Student Success Act enacted in 2017. This act targeted property-tax poor districts to provide students with the resources necessary for a safe and well-rounded learning environment. While building updates and renovations can provide students with a better learning environment, District 209 students will be much better served by having enough teachers for classrooms, adequate security staff, adequate supplies such as student laptops, books and materials, bussing, good cafeteria food, and restored Special Education services, all of which have been decimated under Henderson’s ‘leadership’. Rather than redirecting $4.5 million each year to repay debt, the board should use that money to get the maximum result by spending it directly on the things proven to lead to student success.
Because the $71 million bond purchase was introduced at the February meeting, it will most likely be up for vote at the March 14 meeting. This purchase will not only leave our district, and its taxpayers, in debt for decades, but also steal $4.5 million each year in funding from students for the next 20+ years. Please help me hold this board and superintendent accountable. The students, staff and taxpayers of PTHS District 209 deserve better: better resources, better accountability and better leadership.
(Amanda Grant is a member of the District 209 Proviso Township High School board of education.)