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Proviso Probe

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Welch gets sensitive over questions posed to asst supt/girlfriend

On February 25 at Proviso Math and Science Academy the Proviso Township High Schools (District 209) board of education held its regular meeting. The meeting included discussions of various items like standardized tests, attendance and graduation details. Also, Board president Emanuel “Chris” Welch treated former board president Theresa Kelly rudely. And the unpleasantness escalated when Kelly asked questions about Assistant Superintendent Nikita Johnson.

The first tiff between Kelly and Welch in open session was over approving the January minutes. Kelly thought there were enough abstentions to keep the minutes from being approved. Welch rudely told her that she didn't know Roberts Rules of Order. Since the incident happened first thing after executive session it is possible the bad blood was carry over from the closed session.

Welch really lost his cool when Kelly raised the issue of whether Assistant Superintendent Nikita Johnson was going to be working at District 99 (Cicero Elementary Schools) next year. Johnson confirmed that she had interviewed for the position. She issued a non-denial, saying that she hadn't signed a contract with District 99. Johnson said, “I have not been offered the position... I have not received an offer.... I'm employed at this district. I work hard every day.”

Johnson was on the agenda as “Authorize Asst. Superintendentto begin FY09 Budget process”. Kelly claimed this was properly the purview of the superintendent. Welch responded that the board could delegate it to someone else under Illinois law.

A fairly widely discussed rumor holds that Welch and Johnson have been dating since at least summer, 2006, shortly after Johnson was hired.

Johnson explained with she was a highly sought after “young professional” and claimed to be frequently recruited for positions. This may be true. But if she was so highly recruited, why isn't she taking a position at a school district without financial and political connections to her boyfriend? Welch is primarily connected to Cicero through District 209's law firm, the DelGaldo Group.

Welch got quite angry with Kelly over asking whether Johnson would actually be implementing the budget she'd be writing. I was taking notes, not videotaping, so below is a partial transcript of Welch's response to Kelly's questions.

“All you do is grandstand and do things that are inappropriate.... Shame on Mrs. Kelly.... [Johnson] is qualified.... You're questioning her professionalism. Why don't you become a professional?” At one point Welch called Kelly “ignorant.”

After the meeting I exchanged some friendly words with Welch. He asked if I thought Kelly's questions should have been raised. I responded that it was fair to ask if the person writing the budget would be around to implement the budget. Welch said it should have been raised in closed session. I sorta shrugged. After thinking about it, I'm pretty sure Kelly raised the issue in the right place.

From one perspective it's kinda a personnel issue. But it's definitely a budget issue. The district is already stretching Illinois law to delegate the budget away from the superintendent and to an assistant. This unusual practice is compounded by the irregularities that the board is delegating the budget to the board president's girlfriend (who happens to be the neice of board member Robin Foreman) and that Johnson's leaving before the budget is implemented. These are both issues that raise concerns about if the budget will be legitimate, or just some gobbledygook to appease the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Because of ongoing poor management District 209 has to provide its budget to the ISBE.

So, holding a discussion of the budget in executive session (closed session) would violate the Open Meetings Act. While Welch and Johnson may have preferred not to discuss Johnson leaving to work at a smaller elementary school district in open session, it seems to me Illinois law prohibits discussing it as a budget issue in closed session.

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  • Im sick and tired of this. Teachers had heard the rumor of Dr. Evil leaving already. As a teacher, Im SICK AND TIRED of the districts lack of follow-through on anything. New initiatives, then forget them. New goals, then ignore them, re-write them, etc. Now were talking about an asst. Superintendent who tries to get teachers and staff to take furloughs, cuts costs, yet wastes money elsewhere, now she wont even be around for follow though on her cost cutting ideas. So lets get this stratight. She dates(engaged) the board president, gets a very nice salary, crushes teacher morale, has us worrying all year about rifs, furloughs, has many teachers ready to walk after the year, and now she will parlay this into a better job and walk away from this mess she has helped create? I guess she is a Proviso Grad.

    By Anonymous Pissed off teacher, at 6:16 PM, February 27, 2008  

  • Im already sick and tired of the new board for change! Thats bullsh..., all they do is do whatever Chris Welch says. When are we ever going to have real change?

    By Anonymous change is needed, at 2:07 PM, February 29, 2008  

  • Welch and his girl are so full of it!Welch needs to be questioned on his relations to her and her writng budget requests!She is a total hack, who'll leave Proviso to now go to another hack town of Cicero!

    By Anonymous welch is no good, at 7:50 PM, February 29, 2008  

  • What's even more disturbing is the effect that their (Welch and Johnson) relationship is having on the students and the morale of the faculty and staff. Johnson's piss poor balancing/slashing of the budget will hinder another year for Proviso students. THEY JUST DON'T CARE! What ever happened to Students First? Was that just a cliche or a political motto? I wonder how the elected officials (mayors, trustees, senators, represenatives) in this community allow the shannigans to continue at Proviso, 88 and 89. The parents and community must get involved or they will continue not to give a rat's ass.

    What has happened Proviso?

    First of all, if people took the time to analyze Proviso's report card they would see that Proviso spends below the state's expediture on instruction. INSTUCTION includes teaching, teaching resources and materials, and teachers. How can Proviso increase student achievement without investing the tax payers' money into education? However, Proviso spends over the state's expediture on OTHER EXPEDITURES, which includes a $500,000 website, brokerage firms, public relation firms, and to line the pockets of friends, relatives, and political hacks.

    Johnson and Welch should not be the only ones to blame. What are Sue Henry, Brian Cross, Robin Foreman (Nikita's Aunt,) Bob Cox, and Dan Adams doing on that board? They have taken advantage of the voters and allowed and continued the actions of Johnson and Welch.

    Furthermore, Welch continues to spew victious and erroneous statements on his blog the Insider, and Emily Robinson does not even know the people she writes ill of. She is an inspiring attornery, this is unfortunate. The Forest Park Review wrote an informative article about Welch and Robinson being the authors of the Insider. What kind of example is Welch presenting to the students and staff at Proviso? Does he really think that the staff and community do not read the paper or the Insider? I feel sorry Welch. He spends so much time and energy on bringing people down. Why not divert that time and energy into the students at Proviso? He could create a website or organization that mentors young black males in the community. The students at Proviso East and West are plagued with the nonsense of fighting and name calling, which has caused serious harm to many of our students. It is embarrassing to have him as the President. Proviso is the laughing stock of Illinois schools and every conversation centers around the Board President and his blog. Throughout the halls of East and West the staff call and identify Nikita Johnson as Dr. Evil and the students are well aware of their relationship. How has this trickled down to the students? Welch is the Board President and a black professional male that acts worst than some of the students at Proviso. Yes, there was a brawl at West after the East and West game, but Chris Welch the board President has set the district's tone by acting ignorantly at board meetings, name calling, political firings, and hiding behind a blog. He is nor acting as a role-model to Proviso students. How can he vote on a student's discipline issue when he has behavior issues himself?

    How can Proviso prosper with Welch as the captain of the ship? It will just continue to SINK like the Titantic. Shame on Welch!

    By Blogger the_ship_has_sunk, at 5:47 PM, March 04, 2008  

  • Bill-jacked
    - posted by Rep. John Fritchey

    In the You Saw This Coming From a Mile Away Dept.: News outlets around the country ran a story the other day about the fact that a federal judge in Illinois is on the verge of expanding the pending lawsuit regarding the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act (aka, the 'Moment of Silence' law) into a bilateral class action.
    What that means in simple terms is that the pending suit filed on behalf of one student against one school district will now include all Illinois public school students as plaintiffs and all Illinois school districts as defendants.

    In the interest of brevity, I'm not going to delve into all of the underlying arguments about the law, but rather, try to point out that this tremendous waste of resources could be easily avoided but for a move that really undercuts the integrity of our legislative process.

    In sum, last year Sen. Kimberly Lightford introduced a bill that amended a law that permitted schools to start each day with a moment of silence, (a law that itself was unnecessary, but one that nobody on either side took issue with during the entire time that it was on the books), and made it mandatory. Amazingly, not only did the bill pass both chambers, enough legislators in both chambers even voted to override the Governor's subsequent veto of the bill. (And in case you're wondering, I voted against the bill and against the override.)

    Before session reconvened, I filed HB4180, which would fix a number of deficiencies in the law. I believed that enough of my colleagues, having heard from school superintendents, teachers, parents, the media, and now cognizant of the lawsuit, would understand that, despite having had what may have been good intentions, they had passed a very untenable, unnecessary and unworkable law.

    The committee debate was a thorough and good one, and on March 4, HB4180 passed the full House by a vote of 72-31-6. What is notable about the vote is that over 30 legislators who had supported the current law viewed HB4180 as a better alternative and voted for it. The intention had been that Sen. Jeff Schoenberg would be the Senate sponsor and that we could continue to advance the legislation.

    So it seemed that everything was on track for the Legislature to fix the situation and moot the pending lawsuit, right? Nope.

    Without my knowledge, on the same day that my bill passed out of committee, Sen. Lightford filed a slip with the Senate secretary to take sponsorship of the bill if and when it got to the Senate. By so doing, she now has control of moving and/or amending the bill.

    In fact, Sen. Lightford has recently stated her intentions to amend the bill to take the word 'prayer' out and substitute it with 'meditation' and to set the moment of silence at 60 seconds. Not 61, not 59, 60. Most importantly, she also plans to amend the bill to remove the permissive language and keep the law as a mandatory one. This despite the fact that there are not even penalties for violating the law.

    In sum, she has amazingly found a way to take a bad law and make it potentially more inane. Worse yet, she is arrogantly depriving her Senate colleagues the same opportunity that House members had, namely to rectify a vote that they may wish they had not cast in the first place.

    Had Sen. Lightford attempted to make these changes by filing her own bill, that would have obviously been her prerogative. But to try to do it in the manner that she is egregiously violates an inherent trust between colleagues and creates an environment of distrust where treachery reigns over process.

    I spoke in person with Sen. Lightford about the situation last week, and told her that while I had no personal animus toward her, I truly had no respect for what she had done. I also asked her to do the honorable thing and relinquish the bill to a sponsor of my choosing. I received no response (which speaks volumes in and of itself).

    What will happen now is that even if she is able to pass her bill, there is zero chance that I will call it for concurrence when it returns to the House. In that scenario, as she is well aware, the bill dies and the present law stays on the books.

    Which brings us full circle to the pending court case. The expansion of the lawsuit to cover every school district as a defendant means that at a time when everybody talks about wanting to increase education funding, dollars that should be going into classrooms will instead be going into courtrooms. All because one legislator gave more importance to her personal agenda than to the will of the Legislature.

    When the Governor took the same approach last year, the General Assembly wound up in a record-long session costing taxpayers millions of dollars. It wasn't right then, and it isn't right now.

    None of the recent events have been lost on Judge Gettleman, the federal judge overseeing the pending lawsuit:

    "I was hoping, frankly, this was further along in the legislative process," the judge said at Wednesday's hearing. "I was hoping we'd avoid spending resources on all sides."
    So did I Judge. So did a lot of us.

    By Anonymous what's up with Lightford?, at 12:37 PM, March 21, 2008  

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