Dr. Bessie Karvelas, the new principal of Proviso West High School. Karvelas served as the principal of PMSA and the district's chief innovation officer, a role that has been eliminated. | District 209

The Proviso school board named beloved local educator Bessie Karvelas as acting superintendent after the surprise resignation of James L. Henderson. 

During her time as acting superintendent, Karvelas said she hopes to continue the work the new board of education already began, moving the district toward restoration with a focus on rebuilding. 

“My goal is to put the pieces back together again,” Karvelas said. “The district needs to heal; a lot of departments have been fractured. I want to help heal and build and start a new beginning.”

Karvelas was announced as the acting superintendent during a special board meeting of the board of education earlier this month.

“Dr. Karvelas has the talent and experience needed to lead the staff and run the day-to-day operations of the district,” said Board President Amanda Grant in a press release. “We are grateful to Dr. Karvelas for stepping up during this challenging time, and we appreciate everyone’s help moving our district forward.” 

Karvelas, who has been a part of Proviso Township for 10 years, has held many roles in the district, including executive director for student services, and principal of both Proviso Math and Science Academy and Proviso West High School along with other positions.

Board President Amanda Grant said the acting superintendent position will give the board of education the time necessary to conduct a rigorous search for either an interim or permanent superintendent. While that search is being conducted, Karvelas said she will serve as long as needed. 

“As long as the board needs me, I will be here,” Karvelas said. “I have always been here for them, to support them. I will be here. I want teachers to know we are a family — we are a team and I am honored and humbled to have been selected as acting superintendent.” 

Despite the struggles and controversies faced by the district during the three-year reign of Henderson, including lack of reliable transportation and the dismantling of committees, Karvelas said it is the infectious spirit and the love the community has for the schools that keeps her at D209. 

“It’s a passion that we feel from the families because it is generational,” Karvelas said, adding she loves to see alumni tailgate at the popular West vs. East football game, repping their graduating class. “They grow up and get married and have children and those children go to school here. You don’t see that in a lot of schools. That is family and that part resonates with me.” 

The district recently saw a big change following the election of the Proviso 209 United slate members David Ocampo, Sandra Hixson, and Jennifer Barbahen onto the board of education. Their win overturned the board majority, replacing Theresa Kelly and Ned Wagner, two of the five board members in the infamous “Henderson Five.” Following their appointment, along with Grant as new board president, the board began focusing on restoring the district, a sentiment shared by Karvelas. 

As the district gears up for the highly anticipated first day of school Sept. 5, Karvelas said she has her eyes set on a smooth start to the school year. 

“I want to make sure that everybody is registered,” Karvelas said. “I want to make sure everybody has a schedule in their hands, an ID around their necks, a computer in their hands. That they are ready to go on the first day of school.”

Karvelas added that she will be working to ensure Proviso families don’t encounter any hiccups with transportation, an issue that plagued the district during the first week of school last year as students lacked reliable transportation due to a last-minute contract signed by Henderson. 

A fresh start on the right foot is what Karvelas and the rest of the board is aiming for and with the departure of Henderson, it’s safe to say all eyes will be on how this new administration works to clean up what he left behind. 

“I am working towards that with all my team and my staff and that is the most important thing to me,” Karvelas said.