Last night the Proviso Township High Schools (District 209) board of education held its regular meeting
District 209 has a new board of education. Robert Cox and Robin Foreman were elected in April. Brian Cross was appointed last week
The interpersonal dynamics are different from the old 4-3 split, so the meetings feel a little different.
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There were a large number of parents and community members who raised concerns. Having a long public comment period followed by a long closed session left the board members a bit drained. It sometimes seemed like board president Emanuel Chris Welch was fishing for a motion or a second and the board members were too weary to do it.
The board largely approved the agenda items. One twist is that the board voted to pay Anthony Scariano's firm for legal work, but not to use the firm in the future. This vote was unanimous. (I think Dan Adams was absent. IIRC there were only six board members voting and the rest of them were there. Adams doesn't say much, so there's not much difference whether he's there or not.)
The board also voted down the line items to pay for community liaison officers at Proviso East and Proviso West. The Proviso West positions died when no board member seconded Robert Cox's motion. Brian Cross requested more information before approving the Proviso East liaison officers.
A number of parents expressed suspicion of the plan to have the Hillside PD write local ordinance violations against Proviso West students. Police Chief Joe Lukaszek explained the local ordinance violations are like parking tickets and a better deal for students than handling the issues through arrests. The parents didn't like the idea of the police being involved because it would lead to students having permanent records that could penalize them in the future.
What Lukaszek said may have been the truth, but the parents probably had some reasonable concerns. At some point someone is going to call the cops for something minor and then it's going to escalate with the police officer on scene. And employers are looking for ways to more efficiently search police records, so that which is hard to search today may become easier to search tomorrow.
Cox made the statement, “I'd rather have police than National Guard in my school.” Apparently when Cox was a Proviso East student the National Guard was called out to keep discipline in response to a crisis. (Anybody know the details?)
My two cents is that teachers and deans relinquishing (abandoning?) disciplinary duties has led to hiring legions of school disciplinary personnel. And discipline has become more of a problem. I predict that increasing reliance on the police will make discipline within the schools worse not better. The schools that function the best don't have lots of security goons, cops or National Guard keeping order. The schools that get the best results use teachers supported by deans to keep good order and discipline.
However, I expect once Brian Cross gets to read “exhibit 'A'” he'll be fine with hiring the liaisons at Proviso East. And once the meeting is in another building with fewer Proviso West parents the board will approve the Proviso West liaisons. Without the parents there some board member will second Cox's motion.
The parents and citizens raised a number of concerns. Arbdella Patterson asked details about Bateast Insurance (see Proviso Herald (Chuck Fieldman)
), the company hired to replace Eugene Moore. I raised concerns about hiring Danielle Ashley and David Bonoma & Associates
. One family raised a discipline issue pertaining to a specific student. The local ordinances were an issue that got members of the audience giving the “amen”. One person raised the issue of reducing the number of credits to graduate. Another raised the issue of student fees. One citizen objected to the short notice on filling the vacancy on the school board.
Katrina Steele (sp?) objected to removing the boys bathroom doors at Proviso West. Welch put Principal Alexis Wallace on the spot after she said, “[The doors] were removed by the maintenance department because of vandalism.” Since Wallace avoided answering the question about who authorized the removal Welch said in an accusatory way, “You're not running your building.”
A source says the doors were ordered removed by Superintendent Stan Fields. Later in the meeting when discussing replacement of the fence at Proviso West it was clear Fields was managing the project without involving Wallace. So, if Fields feels he can remove a fence at West without involving Wallace, why wouldn't he feel the same about bathroom doors? And what is Welch trying to achieve by belittling Wallace?
One citizen asked about the Proviso foundation and was concerned about secrecy. Board member Kelly said that one of the school board candidates (in addition to Brian Cross, Kevin McDermott and Linda Howard applied; see Forest Park Review (Josh Adams)
) identified herself as a member of the foundation board. Fields claimed the board does not exist, but avoided saying Howard was incorrect. It seems likely Howard has been promised a position on the foundation board even though the board doesn't formally exist.
Fields also made the claim his advisory board is open to all. He claims he solicited people to join at every community forum he attended. Neither Josh Adams or I remember him making the offer at the Forest Park forum. Although another local journalist remembers the offer being made at a forum in Berkeley.
Welch and Fields used their ability to decline to answer questions to dodge critics. If Welch or Fields felt they had a good answer to a citizens question or a question by board member Kelly they'd give the answer. If they didn't have an answer they felt would make them look good they merely ignored the question.
Cox and board member Robin Foreman both cast “no” votes. I think this was at least partially done to try to create the appearance of independence. However, the “no” votes weren't attached to substantive critiques on the issue being voted. And neither Cox or Foreman supported Kelly in trying to get more information.
Remember, Cox is the board member who voted for Brian Cross to be the candidate to be considered by the board when they were in closed session and then voted against Cross in open session. Because Welch's block was split between Howard and Cross the closed session vote was more important than the open session vote. So Cox has already established a track record of casting meaningless votes of dissent to create the appearance of being independent.
Kelly is trying to establish herself as an independent voice of opposition. She finds it more intimidating to be in a 6-1 minority than a 4-3 minority. She's also sensitive to the criticism that she's both not confrontational enough by insisting her questions get answered and the criticism of not working in a cooperative way with the majority.
Welch did engage in some criticism of Fields for not communicating with the board and residents better. Of course, this could be seen as self-serving because one of the agenda items was to rehire the publicity firm Danielle Ashley. The contract calls for Danielle Ashley to keep its bills below $10,000 per month.
Also, Fields has this weird way of phrasing district policies. He talks about district policies in the third person describing them as the policies pass by the board of education. Look, Dr. Fields, if you recommended the policies to the BOE and the policies were passed, why not talk about the policies as being district policies? It sorta sounds like Fields is trying to evade responsibility for policies like he's some flunky bureaucrat implementing policies decided by some remote governing body.
Danielle Ashley was hired as was David A. Bomona & Associates. Bomona will be the district's lobbyist for $8,000 per month, plus expenses.
Labels: Anthony Scariano, Brian Cross, District 209, Joseph Lukaszek, Proviso West, Robert Cox, Robin Foreman