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
Labels: Bill Kirchner, District 209, Lula Greenhow, Robert Cox, Stan Fields