Jayda James

The April 4 Consolidated Election is nearing, and the race for three open seats on the Proviso Township High School District 209 school board is highly contested. With eight candidates vying for the seats, the D209 Together slate is hoping to win seats. One of the slate’s candidates is hoping to restore pride in the district. 

Growing up in Maywood, Jayda James, now of Hillside, said that regardless of how tough it might have been at times, it made her the woman she is today. James, currently an assistant principal at an elementary school in school district CUSD 201 in DuPage County, has personal ties to the community she is seeking to represent, being a product of the Proviso East class of ‘94.

With hopes of giving back, James came back to her community with a degree in elementary education from Northern Illinois University to teach at Garfield Elementary, her former school, and continued to work for District 89 for 24 years. 

“I’ve always had pride in being an [alumnus] and I’ve watched my classmates and peers throughout the years have pride,” James said. “When I started to see the negativity, whether at a board meeting or via social media, I felt that it was taking away the pride of being a product of District 209 and I want to bring that back.” 

Not only has James taught students who have gone on to attend Proviso Township, but two of her three children are graduates of the Proviso Math and Science Academy and one is currently enrolled. 

As a parent in the district, James said a big concern is student safety as she has seen videos of student altercations that seem to keep escalating. 

“When I see things like that, I realize that students are dealing with a lot more than what sometimes classroom teachers have the time to deal with and sometimes there is a lack of knowledge to what students are dealing with emotionally and mentally,” James said, adding the importance of taking a step back to find the root of what is leading to that behavior. 

James also hopes to see positive changes in the relationship between the board and the Proviso Teachers Union (PTU.) To repair that relationship, James, who was the secretary and eventually vice-president of the Maywood Education Association (MEA) for District 89, said it’s important to remain open to opinions and perspectives. 

“I know what it is like to be on that side, I know the frustrations of a classroom teacher, I know the day-to-day work of a classroom teacher, so I am open to listening and collaborating when it comes to the PTU,” James said. 

In response to controversy surrounding Supt. James L. Henderson. James said she would be open to an evaluation. 

“I am willing to put that work in as well with whoever the board members are in coming up with an evaluating tool or measures to evaluate our superintendent and make that public knowledge,” James said, adding this would help have a standard measure to use when renewals are discussed. 

James wants to create an avenue for parents to voice their concerns and allow teachers to express themselves.

“It is about creating this open line of communication and I’m going to go out on a limb and say we are all on the same page when it comes to wanting our students to be successful,” James said. “We have to be willing, as the adults in their lives, to assist them and guide them towards that.” 

Joining James in the D209 Together slate is incumbent Theresa L. Kelly, who has served on the board for 23 years, and newcomer Maribel Aguirre. 

Kelly, a product of the district and graduate of Proviso East, worked to create the district’s cosmetology program and played a key role in the establishment of the pharmacy tech and nursing program as well. 

Kelly, who has previously served as president and vice-president of the board, is the recipient of various awards including “Those Who Excel,” awarded by the National School Boards Association and was also named the 2022 “Distinguished Board Leader,” by the Illinois Association of School Boards.  

According to Kelly’s candidate profile in the Forest Park Review, in the last two years the board has been able to add many accomplishments to their list including the removal of Proviso East from the list of lowest performing high schools in Illinois, the establishment of an eight-period day schedule across all three schools, and a state of the art football stadium, named the “Theresa L. Kelly Stadium,” and outdoor track field at Proviso East. 

Aguirre is the third candidate on the D209 Together slate. Aguirre and Kelly were not able to be reached for an interview. 

“We are all about our students, we are all about being communicative with the stakeholders and wanting everybody to be a part of the pride and success I know we are going to have,” James said. 

Early voting is now open for the April 4 Consolidated Election and will continue through April 3.