Thursday, May 4, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
The April 4 elections spelled significant change to Bellwood District 88, which has several new executive officers and a new board majority after members of the Bellwood Education Dream Team slate — Deborah Giles, Maria Perez and Dorothy C. Smith — won three of the four open seats on that board.
The successful challengers have allied with incumbent board member Sondra McClendon, a vocal critic of Superintendent Rosemary Hendricks.
Many parents, district employees and community members had singled out Hendricks and former board president Marilyn Thurman, who was reelected to the board in April, “for adding their children and friends to the payroll and awarding contracts to vendors and consultants with whom they have personal connections. They have also spent on travel and perks as administrative costs have grown,” according to an April 2 Chicago Tribune article.
Recently, I spoke with McClendon, now the new D88 board president, about her plans for the new position. Maria Perez was elected vice president and Dorothy C. Smith was elected board secretary.
What’s your vision for the district?
I’m a product of District 88. I grew up here and have been in the community for the past 40 years. When I was coming up, the schools were always prominent. They were good and I just want to bring that back. I want to establish a foundation and give our children a head start to make sure they are successful. In the past, they’ve been robbed of that opportunity and we just want to bring order back to the district for their sake.
What are some specific changes the new board majority will make under your direction?
One of the biggest things I saw happening in the past was a lack of accountability. We really want to make people accountable in the district. There are a lot of policies in the district that are antiquated and need to be revised and revisited.
One of them is our nepotism policy, which was removed years ago. We want to bring that back and get that re-established. We also want to change our spending policies.
There was a lot of controversy about the superintendent’s hiring of security guards to watch the administrative offices. Will that change?
It is a fact that, at the middle school, we do need security, but at the administration building, security is not needed. We’re going to review this and evaluate the need. But it’s definitely not needed at the administration building.
Anything else the community needs to know now that the election is over?
The race has been won but now the real work begins. In that work, we’re still going to need the community to come out and be actively engaged and support us in the mission of what we’re going to do. It really does take a village. We can’t do it on our own. We need the support of the district going forward. VFP