D209 board replaces vice president

Board voted 5-1 on Sept. 15 to remove Claudia Medina, Theresa Kelly replaces her in the role

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

During a special board meeting on Tuesday night, the District 209 school board voted 5 to 1 in favor of removing Claudia Medina as board vice president, because they said she violated her oath of office.

Board member Ned Wagner voted against the motion while Medina abstained.

The board then opened the floor for members to nominate Medina's replacement, with Della Patterson nominating Sam Valtierrez, who declined, and Valtierrez nominating Patterson, who also declined.

Board President Rodney Alexander then nominated Theresa Kelly to replace Medina as vice president. After a second, that motion passed 6-0, with Medina abstaining.

"This will probably set a precedent that no board wants to set, but it is necessary," said Alexander before introducing the motion to remove Medina as vice president.

Alexander said that the board has no punitive power and cannot remove a sitting board member from their seat on the board without getting permission to do so from state authorities.

"We do have censure, but that's nothing more than a reading and if there's not contrition and agreement on that, then it's pretty much ineffective and the behavior will continue," Alexander said.

When reached for comment after the Sept. 15 meeting, Alexander said that Medina had been sending "harassing and bullying" texts and emails to Supt. James Henderson.

"When Dr. Henderson sends his board a text message saying that he feels harassed as an employee, it is not our job to say what harassment or bullying is, our only option is to ask the person doing it to stop the behavior," Alexander said.

Alexander added that Medina shared sensitive personnel information and executive session conversations with Forest Park Review about the superintendent search process, which is in violation of board policy.

He also said that during the superintendent search process, Medina withheld the fact that she's close friends with a relative of one of the two finalists who were up for the superintendent job. The man, Dr. Terrance Brown, is the brother-in-law of Medina's close friend.

"There's nothing wrong with her knowing the candidate, but just tell us beforehand," Alexander said. "As a matter of fact, every board member was asked to submit the names of people in our search group that we knew. We just asked that we disclose this to the board. We were so close to hiring this guy and if we'd done that [despite the fact that a member knew him without disclosing that knowledge beforehand], it would have been a disaster. We'd have looked stupid."

The board president said that when Medina was confronted with the accusations in executive session, she was unresponsive.

"We just lost confidence in her," Alexander said. "She won't admit to anything or apologize for anything. She didn't respond to any of the allegations. You don't get to be our vice president and lead us, when you can't communicate with us."

Medina has admitted to knowing the finalist and said that she withheld the information, because doing so would have tainted her colleagues' opinion of Brown, given the rancor between herself and the other board members.

"I didn't share personnel matters [with the newspaper during the superintendent search process]," she said on Tuesday evening, after the special board meeting. "I shared concerns about the process."

In response to accusations that she abused her oath, Medina said, "That's not true," adding "I'm not in violation of my oath of office in any way, shape or form.

She said that her communications with Supt. Henderson were only related to questions she had about the district's budget deficit.

"I was not told that this special board meeting was going to be about me," Medina said. "They said it was about communication. I thought this had to do with a communications director position; instead, it was about my communication and my requesting information from the superintendent. I would think that being fiscally responsible would be important to the taxpayer."  

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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Reader Comments

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Jon Kubricht from Forest Park   

Posted: October 20th, 2020 1:09 PM

I have known Claudia Medina and have followed these board meetings for months. She is a dedicated board member and her mission is a equity and inclusive education. Claudia has been a human rights activist for years. I'm appalled that the Forest Park review would not publish anything in regards to Claudia's position. This is a completely one-sided article, how can something like this be written? No substance, no facts, and not even taking into account Claudia's side of the story! There has been no substantiation of any of the allegations made against Claudia. The actions taken by the board were based on the fact that they stated "they do not trust her anymore" is absurd! The even go as far as to say that she harassed the superintendent. I was unaware that sending emails requesting information that board members have a right to is now considered harassment. Next thing you know the NEW superintendent is going to consider someone saying hello to be harassment. What type of harassment warranted such an abrasive response? Misogyny, Sexism or Racism? Does the new superintendent have issues with women being in power? Does he have an issues with Latinos? My understanding is she only sent a few emails requesting information regarding the budget? Why was she not provided accurate information and how is this harassment? How could this possibly warrant breaking board policy to remove her as vice president because last I read on the district 209 website policy manual elections for leadership in the board are only held in April.

Jon Kubricht from Forest Park  

Posted: October 20th, 2020 1:07 PM

In watching the meetings I have come to realize just how dysfunctional this board is. They all ran on wanting to do away with the NEPOTISM that permeated the previous board. I am appalled by the actions of Della Patterson, her son was hired and the board applauded it and supported the nepotism. Just this month Theresa Kelly hired her son and yet none of them were removed from the board or publicly humiliated in the paper? This is a blatant violation of Della and Theresa's power. They are using their positions to enrich their families. They should be ashamed of offering their family members lucrative jobs at District 209. This whole article seems to be written for character assassination only and based on no facts. The new board President and superintendent are completely out of line and have violated the State of Illinois Open Meetings act. It will be quite interesting to see what happens when Kwame Raoul's office and the Public Access Counselor get involved.

Claudia Medina from Forest Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2020 3:47 PM

This Article was no updated as per my request. It is wrongfully stated that I knew the Candidate. I have never met the gentleman, but would be honored to due to his knowledge and impeccable record. I do However know his sister in law, Who is a lead national Education Leader in Equity and Doctoral Program director who leads Transformational leadership in Education Programs and is an International speaker on African American Studies. She has volunteered to Help with the Equity Study for District 209 and also was assisting in leading a professional development for all teachers in District 209. The Education Department she leads was having her Doctoral Students come to evaluate and observe our Curriculum as Part of the SASI committee equity in Education initiatives. As I have always done I provided a link so that excellent Candidates would apply for our district from her University or any colleagues that she may know, to move our district forward with High educational and equitable practices for all students. She did pass that link on to many formidable candidates. Some did apply. I Also sent links to other Universities to provide high quality candidates to the pool of people coming to D209. As an Educator by profession, I have always assured that highly qualified candidates become aware of our vacancies. But to state that I knew the candidate or to twist the fact that I was misleading is not accurate. I broke no policy or mislead not one person. I let the process run with the candidates that met criteria. I never pushed for a candidate to be hired, I did not know the gentlemen but he comes highly recommended and his accomplishments and record were very impressive. The mischaracterization is of my actions to imply impropriety has been a consistent tactic of character assassination lead by the President of the board.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: September 17th, 2020 10:54 AM

Why was Medina's allegation of a $4.2 million budget deficit and alleged shortfalls in every account not mentioned in this article?

Geoff Binns-Calvey  

Posted: September 17th, 2020 10:33 AM

Pam, do you know a thing about it other than reading this one article? Claudia was instrumental in getting the Proviso high schools out of the grasp of the Melrose Park machine, who were awarding fat, juicy, single bid contracts to their cronies. And their lackeys got pushed off the school board, but that machine has never stopped trying to get back at that sweet honey pot.

Pam Fontana  

Posted: September 16th, 2020 6:20 PM

I don't know sounds like they threw the snake outside

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: September 16th, 2020 11:18 AM

And Melrose Park creeps back into D209's affairs like a snake crawling through a crack in the door.

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