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Proviso Probe

Thursday, August 09, 2007

meeting of citizens critical of District 209

Last night an ad hoc group met to discuss their dissatisfaction with the district and particularly the board of education of Proviso Township High Schools District 209. The meeting happened at the Forest Park Public Library and was initiated by Bill Kirchner of the advisory and foundation committees assembled by dismissed superintendent Stan Fields.

I expected more people to attend. Maybe as many as 40-45 people attended some portion of the meeting. A few people observed that the meeting included people who were aligned with either Chris Welch or Eugene Moore as recently as the April, 2007 elections.

The other thing I learned at the meeting is that Fields is an exceedingly charismatic figure for some people. There's a small group of people who think he's great and bringing him back would be great for the district. Kirchner and some other members of the advisory committee and foundation committees fall into this category.

Kevin McDermott, who ran in the April, 2007, election on a slate backed by Democratic Committeeman Karen Yarbrough, seemed to be able to convince people that to build a coalition the group needs to focus on the commonalities of the members and not on what divides them. And as McDermott explained, Fields is a divisive figure. Many if not a strong majority of the people dissatisfied with District 209 were also dissatisfied with Fields.

District 209 board member Bob Cox spoke at the beginning of the meeting. A number of other public figures were present, including Barbara Cole, Daryl (didn't get the last name), Lula Greenhow, Larry & Linda Howard, Della Patterson, Ami Relf, Marty Tellalian, Carl Williams and Gary Woll. Rich Vitton was in and out of the meeting. James Graham appeared very briefly. And both Chuck Fieldman (Proviso Herald) and Josh Adams (Forest Park Review) attended. (Apologies to anyone I missed, I'm working from memory.)

I don't think the group has any chance of accomplishing anything if the anti-Welch, anti-Moore people spend their energy trying to detect and purge pro-Welch, pro-Moore people. If people show up to meetings and are helping the cause—or at least not hurting the cause—that should be enough. It's not like applying pressure to the board of education is some secret project.

However, whether she's actively trying to be obnoxious and disruptive or whether she can't help herself, Lula Greenhow, needs to be counseled that she needs to behave at the meetings. And if she can't or won't modify her behavior she should be excluded. Greenhow got into squabbles with multiple people. She talked all the time, including when other people had the floor. She offered nothing constructive and basically argued that the group should let the board do what it wants because it was elected by the people. She made statements that caused Kirchner to give a long explanation of the Open Meetings Act. I can't divine her intentions, but Greenhow acted like she was on a mission to make the meeting less effective. Since Greenhow's daughter works under Grady Rivers, a Moore politician, at Proviso Township it seems possible that she was deliberately trying to disrupt the meeting. On the other hand, Greenhow was a counter-demonstrator at the anti-pimp demonstration in Maywood. So she does have a history of eccentric contrariness.

Sharon Daley suggested the group use All Proviso Network to communicate. The software allows individuals to initiate discussions, be anonymous (or not) and engage in private communications. I'm not sure about setting up group communications. IIRC Kirchner said he was going to create a listserve on Yahoo Groups. (BTW, Google Groups may be slightly superior.)

After the meeting Daley expressed the sentiment that the challenge of organizing for reform in District 209 seems daunting because of the number of communities and the size of the project. She asked for an example of another high school district with so many feeder communities.

Relf said that she doubted the parents group from Proviso West would continue to be active with this group. I can understand why they would feel frustrated. The vision and purpose of the group didn't gel as smoothly as some would have liked. But I think it will get better over time.

The pro-Fields people are still feeling hurt about the board's action to begin termination of Fields. And some of them still believe there is a window of opportunity to overturn the decision.

The people who were critical of the district and board of education before Fields was put on leave get a little impatient with the pro-Fields people.

For example, everyone seemed to agree the district is doing as little as possible to fulfill the requirements of the Open Meetings Act with its minimalist agendas. The people who have been following the district from before the 2006-07 academic year know that the minimalist agendas were implemented by Fields. Somehow Fields' personal charisma keeps his supporters from assigning responsibility to Fields for the bad and questionable decisions that happened while he was superintendent.

There seemed to be consensus that we should all try to bring more people to the August 20 board meeting.

You can also read the Proviso Insider's take on the meeting.

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  • Surprised said:
    Fields is charismatic? You learn something new everyday.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:13 AM, August 10, 2007  

  • Questions:
    Is the pro-Fields group really mad about his termination or the board's decision to abolish the foundation committee?

    How did Fields pick his parent advisory committee? Did Fields and Welch select the majority of the members?

    Where was the community's outrage when the board terminated the black supt., Greg Jackson, and then hire Libka? Just asking

    I just hope that the group focuses on educating ALL the children of #209 and not their own personal interest, for example the foundation committee, Fields, or PMSA.

    The children will continue to be left out while people bicker and argue over personal agendas and the destiny of Fields. Fight for the children not Fields. Fields makes over $200,000; he is in no way suffering. He got his ass in this mess; he needs to figure how to get out of it.

    By Blogger who_really_cares?, at 9:56 AM, August 10, 2007  

  • I think the board members pay should be tied directly to performance of the children in the schools. Perhaps then Welch, etc. would quit wasting money on stupid stuff (websites, PR agencies, etc.) and concentrate on getting the job done.....EDUCATION of our children.

    By Anonymous forest park resident, at 2:42 PM, August 10, 2007  

  • It was only a question of time --- a relatively short time --- before Fields was destined to make his departure from District 209. If his lack of requisite educational and leadership skills wasn't enough to cause his early demise, certainly his misplaced allegiances with self-serving board members coupled with his creation and promotion of divisiveness between majority and board members was. He was doomed to failure before or shortly after he began.

    His initiatives, which really never got too far beyond the bullet point and stylistic stages, were sorely lacking in substance: this is because Fields is, in my opinion, an adept bullshitter but an inept man of action. His history at the various schools that he worked, including Morton and Mundelein, seem to be sad testaments to what some consider to be his incompetence.

    It's time to move beyond, way beyond, Fields and put his superintendency in the proper historical perspective --- that of an ineffective pawn whose usefulness to certain unscrupulous board members was no longer needed.

    What I lament most is, with the departure of Fields, know-nothing, do-nothing Libka is at the helm. Talk about going from bad to worse!

    Those that defend Fields should wake up and smell the coffee. He is history. Now, let's leave him as a memory and confront the indigenous and core problems facing the district. I think we all know what and who they are.

    By Anonymous Look to the Future, at 11:11 AM, August 11, 2007  

  • Illinois school board members don't receive any pay.
    Hmmmm......Do they Welch?

    Look to the Future hit is right on the head! I look forward to reading more of his/her posts.

    By Blogger who_really_cares?, at 8:04 PM, August 11, 2007  

  • It's all well and good that people are finally outraged enough to get organized and vocal about dist 209 but the Forest Park Review article is right about nothing going to change until the board is replaced. As far as Fields goes, I'm betting Welch and his slimy cronies will justify firing him by doing what they do best and that's lie and then lie some more. I bet Welch got pissed off about the foundation committee because he wants his crooked colleague Carla Johnson to run it so he can have his dirty hands on the money coming in. I bet Fields knew that and moved to make sure it was run by parents and other legit folks. You watch. Carla Johnson gonna be put in charge of that foundation.

    We should all know by now to not believe anything and I mean ANYTHING coming out of Welch's and Libka's mouths.

    By Anonymous The True Insider, at 10:06 AM, August 12, 2007  

  • I haven't checked in on the Probe recently so I thought I'd add my 2 cents. First, congrats to the Forest Park Review for their right-on editorial about Proviso 209. Second, its clear now who is the source of all the problems. Its us as a community. We have allowed politicians and a bureaucrats to ruin our schools. I don't blame Mr. Cox because I truly believe he's new and got fooled by lies and now has seen the light. I don't blame Mr. Fields for the same reasons. I think he was bamboozled during his first months and when he tried to do the right thing he got bounced. I remember back when Mrs. Kelly likely got taken in by the same b.s. and eventually had her eyes opened. Mr. Howard likely believed the liars, too. Now he and his group have been awaken. All of us on the outside looking in have our eyes open thanks to Mr. Adams of the Review and Mr. Feldman of the Herald. My wife and I applaud the new activism of the pro-Fields and pro-Proviso group. Her only caveat is she's an alum and had Mr. Flowers as a teacher. Suffice it to say there's a serious problem on his side like there's a serious problem with Mr. Welch, Mrs. Henry and Mr. Moore. I hope the Forest Park Review continues its good work and gets this entire board ousted.

    By Anonymous 1st Ave. Walker, at 11:38 AM, August 12, 2007  

  • "1st Avenue Walker" has it right that it is the Proviso District 209 constituency, the voters, who are ultimately the source of the enduring and entrenched problems that the district has experienced and continues to experience. Why have the voters allowed District 209 board members, their political allies, their family members, their friends, the friends of their friends, connected contractors, ad infinitum to grow fat at the public trough while the quality of education that the district's students receive cannot get much lower?

    I submit to you the major reason is apathy. Plain and simple, the majority of voters just don't seem to give enough of a damn to research, make intelligent choices, and vote for those individuals who have one and only one genuine major agenda and the educational and experiential skill set and proper motivation to implement it --- the agenda being the educational progress of our children. Many of those that do give enough of a damn to vote, give a damn for the wrong reasons: the "I'll scratch your back, if you'll scratch mine" mentality in which certain subsets of voters are assured that their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, aunties, etc. will be taken care if and when certain people attain office.

    There is a movement afoot by a Forest Park group that, I assume, is mostly Caucasian which is trying to generate interest in the dissolution of the district. There is the very real possibility that the majority of the district's Black and Hispanic voters will take offense at this proposed action because it is being promoted by, what they may perceive to be, geographic, cultural, ethnic, and racial "separatists".

    I think our best hope for change is with the feds or through some sort of state intervention short of dissolution.

    If nothing happens to make significant changes, well then, the voters get what they deserve. Unfortunately, it is their children who will bear the brunt of the burden

    By Anonymous Look to the Future, at 1:19 PM, August 12, 2007  

  • So, 1st Ave. Wlaker was your wife in special ed.? Because Flowers was a special ed teacher.

    It seems that your post reached really hard to diss Dr. Flowers and your only way of doing that was to say your "hypothical wife" had him as a teacher. Like your other post Mr. Walker, they seem fabricated and pointless.

    You name Moore, Welch, and Henry as problems, which I agree, but how has Dr. FLowers been a problem?
    Is your gripe with everyone including yourself as a community member? Just asking

    By Blogger who_really_cares?, at 1:21 PM, August 12, 2007  

  • Ms. Coffee says: This meetings sounds like typical Proviso politics. Relf and Patterson have their own personal and political agendas. Nothing will ever improve in 209 until stop with the politics. The district should be about education and not about whose friend, relative or political ally gets a job. In other districts they hire the most qualified. Proviso doesn't even advertize on the Cook county or ISBE websites. They're not concerned about quality educators, para pros or security. All they care is that someones baby mama gets a job.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:31 PM, August 12, 2007  

  • Board members, by state law, receive no/zero/nada pay.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:05 PM, August 12, 2007  

  • The concept of dissolution has been kicking around for quite some time, especially, on a particular Forest Park forum. For some posters on that forum, the idea of dissolution seems to be more of a literary spring board for fancy rhetoric filled with metaphors, hyperbole, and stretched analogies then it is a viable path to follow to correct the ills in District 209.

    These individuals and others who subscribe to the dissolution solution have not seemed to have implemented one demonstrative community action, one significant, organizational step beyond the talk stage, to introduce and promote the concept to the majority of District 209 voters. Why not? Why is it taking so much time? What's holding them back?

    Well, of course, it's their unspoken realization that the idea of dissolution --- championed by a group which is easily seen by the majority of District 209 voters as outsiders --- stands a snowball's chance in Hell of appealing to Black and Hispanic voters much less garnering their votes. Who have these "dissolutioners" got on board? Any local community leaders? Any local politicians? Any local high level educators? Any community action groups with significant numbers? Unlikely. The politicians in power do not want to relinguish the power. The voters are easily swayed by those currently in power or are simply comfortable with the status quo, and the high level educators know who butters their bread.

    Writing and bantering about dissolution makes for an entertaining topic among a select few, but, when push comes to shove, it all boils down to evanescent blatherings.

    By Anonymous The Dissolution Solution, at 8:36 AM, August 13, 2007  

  • Ms.Coffee what's Relf and Patterson's agenda? Do people get labeled political when they openly lambaste Welch and the Welch majority? As a parent and taxpayer am I political when I ask questions at the board meetings? My personal agenda is to hold elected officals accountable for educating the students of Proviso.

    Why would you call a group of concerned citizens political? Do you live in Proviso Township?

    What do they want out of Proviso? What baby mama's have they been able to get hired? The board is controlled by Welch, so how have they been able to push any personal agendas through? Lately, Welch has controlled all the hirings and firings in 209? Also, what are your solutions to improving Proviso? Do you suggest Proviso hire a Supt. in charge of Curriculum and Instruction? Why hasn't this position been filled in two years?

    Yes, there are some poltical factions in Proviso...THE TEACHER'S UNION! I was appalled at the teacher's union President comment in the paper, The Proviso teacher's union is just as political as the board and has not helped with educating the students in 209. The President of the union, Mona Johnson, shockingly spoke up for Fields in the Herald. I thought that was strange because he got rid of over 40 teachers due to budget cuts. Wouldn't a union President fight for teachers? Just asking.

    Ms. Coffee you need to wake up and smell the coffee. Proviso has always been political, but as of lately, since Welch has been Board President 7 years, they are NOT EDUCATING THE STUDENTS!

    Help solve the problem! Pessimism and divison is not helping educate my child, your child, OUR CHILDREN!

    By Blogger who_really_cares?, at 10:10 PM, August 13, 2007  

  • "who really cares" gets my vote for most ignorant posts to this blog and that's among some strong competition. If you don't "really care" then please JUST SHUTUP rather than endlessly whine. You hate the teachers, the administrators, the parents, the board (except Flowers...hmmm). To chastise our Union President for actually working with the superintendent is uninformed, divisive, misguided and indicative of someone who knows nothing of our situation. You come across as a bitter dunce with an axe to grind against the teachers, our union, Dr. Fields and anyone who wants to work together to make our classrooms better. I pray you are not Charles Flowers because it would be a public tragedy for someone as ignorant as you to have been elected to be regional superintendent.

    By Anonymous PWHS Teacher, at 9:34 AM, August 14, 2007  

  • I don't agree with everything "who really cares" states, but whom ever he or she is they do have a point about Proviso's teacher's union. Mona Johnson's comment in the Herald was shocking and embarrassing, because she did not address the fact that Fields let go over 40 teachers. Today at the inservice people were passing the artice around in awe. The union seems to only care about the teachers with over 25 years in the district. Proviso's union is able to take advantage of their membership because the new teachers come and go and don't get involved.

    And to think that "who really cares" is Dr. Flowers is ridiculous. Why would he come down on Mona Johnson? One could assume that Mona Johnson or some executive board member is the PWHS teacher. Don't make assumptions off of anger. Dr. Flowers was the most respected 209 board member and many people in the community and teachers respect him.

    My personal opinion of Mona Johnson is that she is a self-centered opportunist that has been bought and paid for by Welch and Fields. How has the Union President worked for CHILDREN? She hasn't; she is another political whore with her own agenda. The vice-president is just as bad, Rose Hartwell. Mona Johnson should have had some opposition, but the young teachers didn't care and she was once again elected. Shame on Proviso!

    Now that's just my opinion. An opinion is like a butt hole, every one has one. According to Mona Johnson she is not trying to win a popularity contest. She doesn't care if people like her or not. But what about respecting her at the end of the day?

    By Blogger politics_over_socialwork, at 4:56 PM, August 14, 2007  


    To PWHS teacher,

    I tried not to get in this disscusion, but it seems you missed the point. Maybe my reading of who really cares? is wrong, but the comment does not blame the teachers, parents adminstrators (except Fields), or board members(except Welch). The commenter is very passionate about change in Proviso, but the comment does not address it in a cohesive, polite manner. The comment should have not attacked the union's president, but the constant battle over Field's suspension is overshadowing the real problem in 209. However, I think this was a perfect opportunity for the union president to address educating Proviso's students and the political hog wash that plagues the district; however, she does not do that, which opened the door for people to call her on it. I was not aware that Fields let go over 40 teachers. If this is true, any teacher's union president should be beyond livid.

    Who really cars? does go off focus and diverts attention on the teacher's union, which does place blame on the teacher's union president, which is not fair. The union President is only one person, like Welch is only one board member. They can't act alone.

    From the outside looking in, who really cares? definitely has a major problem with the teacher's union and by the comments in the Herald and just by talking to several teachers in the district, the gripe is legitimate. I don't know the President, but it seems she is either oblivious of Proviso politics or she is playing ball with the power players.

    Also, to drag Dr. Flower's name into your personal tirade against who really cares? is childish and can be classified as one of those "ignorant" post you refer to in your comment.

    To who really cares?,
    Proviso schools are political. What made you think the teacher's union is exempt? Leave them alone and fight the good fight for the students. STAY FOCUSED!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:58 PM, August 14, 2007  

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