Proviso United — the new political slate comprising three candidates vying for three open seats on the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board — recently gave the public a taste of the themes they plan to campaign on ahead of the April 2, 2019 Consolidated Election.
The candidates held a meet-and-greet that doubled as a holiday toy drive on Nov. 20 at the Blue Note Jazz Club, 1715 Roosevelt Road in Broadview.
"The three of us came together, talked about running and decided to form a party," said candidate Leighton Scott, a Maywood firefighter and lifelong resident of that village.
Denard Wade Sr., also a Maywood firefighter and resident in the village, and Beverly Robertson, a longtime D209 staff member who retired in 2017, round out the three-person slate.
The candidates all said their top three priorities for the district would be ensuring equal education across all three schools, strengthening accountability in the district, and improving the district's vocational programs.
Scott and Wade said they both graduated from Proviso East and have children and grandchildren who either attended, or presently attend, East and West. They are advocates for intensive training in trades and mentoring resources within the schools.
"Everyone is not going to go to college," Wade said. "I want to make sure we have trades available for them and other outlets like mentoring."
"What we need is to have something for our children who don't succeed in college," Scott said. "We need something for them to come back and do. They need to be prepared."
Wade said the three candidates will "be an intensive ear" for the community, listening to those people who are in the schools every day.
Robertson said one of her top goals will be to serve as an advocate for children in the high schools.
"I want to make sure we take care of the concerns of all children," she said.
Cynthia Smith, a community member who attended the Nov. 20 toy drive, praised Robertson, whom Smith called her mentor.
"District 209 needs someone who knows education and not just someone making political moves," Smith said.
Wade said that while he will also advocate for all children in the district, regardless of race or ethnicity, he is particularly concerned with the state of black males in the district.
"I am an advocate for young, black males," Wade said. "I was once a young, black male in Maywood. I want to be a proper example. I want to be tangible and approachable … I have a responsibility."
During Tuesday's event, Antoinette Gray, the party's chairperson, referenced the performance of the current school board — whose members were elected on the Proviso Together slate that formed not long before the 2015 elections.
Gray, a former Proviso Together supporter, has since defected from the party, along with sitting D209 school board member Della Patterson, who was elected with Proviso Together last April.
Board President Ned Wagner and members Theresa Kelly and Claudia Medina are all running for re-election on the Proviso Together slate in April.
"A couple of months ago, [the school board] voted on a $1.5 million, 5-year contract for our superintendent," Gray said, adding that the district's academic performance has "not moved forward."
She said the board has also "changed some language" and used "artistry" to mask deeper problems.
"We just want to be true to Panthers, Pirates and PMSA, and make sure our schools rise above where they're performing now," she said.
The three candidates said they're confident they'll prevail in April.
"This is a grassroots thing we're doing. We're trying to involve all of the community," said Scott. Wade added that the candidates are confident the community will buy into something new.
"They want true change," Wade said.