It took a while for the document to surface, but the settlement agreement between the Proviso Township public high schools and its now former superintendent, James Henderson is about what you would expect. 

A lot of money shoveled out the door in the form of a year’s pay, a ton of unused vacation and sick pay, and generous health care coverage for Henderson and his family for a year. 

It all added up to $336,791.

And it is the best money District 209 ever spent.

We are normally critical of such settlements. But not in this case. 

James Henderson is one of the worst superintendent hires we have ever witnessed. Divisive. Self-serving. Political. And with no interest or ability to build a bridge with faculty, students or the wider community. With a troubling professional history that makes his original hiring incomprehensible, we pegged the superintendent early on as a grifter.

Our opinion has not shifted. His tenure confirmed our view. And as we have said since last spring’s election created a new board majority with a clear-eyed view of Henderson, the man had to go and quickly. This new board could not begin a new school year with him in place. 

We knew it would be expensive to make him go away. And it was. But it also allowed the new board and its acting superintendent, Bessie Karvelas, to shift the focus of the fall semester from chaos and vitriol to something student- and community-focused. 

Wisely the school board has begun planning for a wide open search for the next superintendent. This needs to be an open process with considerable input from faculty, staff, students and family. 

After several years of intentional progress in this troubled district under reform board leadership, D209 barely survived a three-year derailment caused by Henderson and his narrow board majority. Turning this train forward will take a strong and empathetic leader, a steady school board, and time.

Meanwhile we have faith in Karvelas, a survivor in this district, who has not lost faith in the possibilities to guide the district’s short-term return to something more positive, ambitious and normal.

Hawk Auto invests

The car dealership at Roosevelt and Desplaines has been empty, or at least severely underutilized, for way too long. Good news then to see a significant remodeling of the facility underway.

Good also to see this additional investment in Forest Park by the Hawk auto group, which has long had a presence on Forest Park’s mini-auto row along Roosevelt. The current plan is to showcase Hawk’s Jeep franchise on the highly visible corner. Chrysler, Dodge and Ram vehicles will continue to be marketed further west on Roosevelt.

Retaining and growing its auto sales business is a major win for the village of Forest Park. Car sales generate significant sales tax revenues for the village, and expansion makes Forest Park a stronger regional destination for car shoppers.