Proviso Township High School District 209 paid former Superintendent James L. Henderson $336,791.74, according to the settlement agreement following his resignation earlier this year.
Henderson, who announced his resignation Aug. 9, served his final day with the three-school district Aug. 11 after three years of service.
The settlement agreement, which was signed by both Henderson and board president Amanda Grant, said that Henderson “forever resigns his employment with Employer and Employer accepts such resignation.” According to the agreement, Henderson’s most recent employment agreement ran from June 14, 2022 and was set to expire on June 30, 2027.
Board President Amanda Grant declined to comment, saying his departure was a personnel matter.
According to the settlement agreement, payment had to be provided to Henderson no later than Sept. 1, 2023. Attempts to contact Henderson by publication were not unsuccessful.
The amount paid to Henderson included one year of his salary under the employment contract from the 2023-24 school year, which was listed as $273,105.00, as well as an additional $63,686.74 from accrued unused vacation days.
Additionally, the agreement, obtained by Forest Park Review, said that upon Henderson’s election of COBRA, Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act that gives workers the option to continue their health benefits following certain circumstances which include voluntary or involuntary job loss, “employer shall pay employee’s costs of participation on any eligible group major medical/health and dental insurance plan(s) through August 18, 2024.”
Kristine Vandenbroek, director of public and community relations for Proviso Township High School District 209, said the district was not able to comment on the matter at this time.
Henderson joined D209 following the resignation of Jesse Rodriguez, who left the district at the end of June 2020 to start a position with Zion-Benton Township High School District 126. The district received help narrowing down candidates from executive search firm Ray and Associates.
According to copies of the superintendent employment agreement obtained by Forest Park Review, Henderson’s first employment contract with the district was created in July 2020 for a period of Aug. 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023. This contract maintained Henderson’s salary at $250,000 for each school year in exchange for Henderson’s agreement to “devote such time, skill, labor and attention to his employment,” during the term of the agreement.
Henderson was also entitled to 20 vacation days annually, 14 days of sick leave per year, three personal business days per year, and a $500 monthly transportation allowance. Additionally, the board provided and paid the entire premiums for hospitalization, major medical and dental insurance for Henderson, his spouse, and his dependents as well as covering premiums for a term life insurance policy in the amount of $250,000 paid for the time of his contract.
A year later, in June 2021, Henderson signed a five-year contract with D209, effective from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2026. The new contract increased his salary for the 2021-22 school year by $12,500 and by $17,750 for the 2022-23 school year. According to previous reports by Village Free Press, a third contract was approved by the board of education in June 2022.
Each contract stated that there would be a yearly evaluation of his performance by the board of education. During the majority of his time at D209, Henderson did not undergo an evaluation.
Despite the lack of performance reviews by the previous board of education, Henderson was not spared from criticism from two then-board members, Amanda Grant and Claudia Medina, who expressed their desire for the board majority, which consisted of Ned Wagner, Arbdella Patterson, Rodney Alexander, and Theresa Kelly, to be overturned. That wish was granted following this year’s April 4 Consolidated Election when three new board members were voted onto the board, replacing Kelly and Wagner, along with Medina.
In June 2023, the board of education, which included newly elected David Ocampo, Jennifer Barbahen, and Sandra Hixson, conducted the first superintendent evaluation since Henderson’s hiring in 2020. The evaluation was performed during a closed session, and because it is considered a personnel matter, Grant said they were not able to provide comment.
Following Henderson’s resignation, the board appointed Bessie Karvelas, a longtime district administrator, as acting superintendent while the board vets an interim or permanent superintendent.
Grant said the district was in the process of hiring the search firm HYA and collecting input from students, parents, staff, administrators and community members.
“We want a candidate who understands the diversity of our community, what success looks like and what it will take to get us there,” Grant told Forest Park Review. “Our District needs someone who is focused on equity and excellence for all students and stakeholders.”