We await the reporting on just what James Henderson will walk away with following his resignation last week as superintendent of the District 209 Proviso Township High Schools. Given the absurd generosity of the past school board in regularly extending his contract, we imagine it will be a substantial sum of money.

And within reason, we say, money well spent. Good work by Amanda Grant, school board president, and her colleagues. 

The man had to go. And getting him on his way before the imminent start of the new school year offers a calming and clarifying moment as this school district, with its self-inflicted chaos, seeks to fully focus on students.

James Henderson was a narcissistic grifter. We had him pegged from his first days in this district three years ago. Given his stupefying career in educational leadership as he hopscotched the country from one job to another, it remains a mystery how he was ever hired in District 209. 

Focusing only on his short, stormy tenure in Holmes County, Mississippi, his last stop before Proviso Township, it should have been plenty to send the previous incarnation of the D209 school board back to its search process.

It didn’t. And the previous board majority allowed Henderson to do a lot of damage to this fragile school district. Insider hires for key consulting posts. A debilitating teachers strike followed an unnecessarily hostile approach to frustrated faculty. A disrespectful attitude toward families in the district. Questions about accountability on spending. Buses that didn’t run on time. Security that did not make anyone feel safe. Instability in leadership ranks.

It has been a dismaying three years.

It had to end and the school board gets credit for forcing
the issue.

The board also gets credit for its decision to hire an acting superintendent rather than an interim. And in choosing Bessie Karvelas for that post the board put in place a steady force with long history in this district. Karvelas has most recently served as principal at Proviso West, but we long admired her work as principal of the Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park. She is just what this district needs in the immediate term.

By naming her “acting,” the board gives itself time to vet potential interim superintendents as it considers its single most important decision, which will be to hire its single direct report, the next superintendent. Perhaps Karvelas might take on the interim title. She and the board will figure that out.

Meanwhile, school is about to start. And it will be a fresh start without Henderson’s heavy hand and propensity for divisiveness. 

This is all fairly simple. Focus on kids. Give them love and support, a safe place, a challenging curriculum with high expectations whether their next stop is college or a job path. 

Better days ahead.