Tuesday, April 17, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: A screenshot of the April 10 regular meeting of the District 209 school board. | YouTube
The Proviso Township High Schools District 209 Board of Education recently voted against some administrative hires and promotions recommended by Superintendent Jesse Rodriguez.
The voting prompted a two-sided debate among board members about administrative salaries and the process for hiring and promoting administrators — a debate that was complicated by the fact that some of Rodriguez’s personnel recommendations were approved.
The board voted 4-3 against hiring Anthony Brazouski as assistant superintendent of human resources at a starting salary of $160,000. Brazouski, an administrator from Wisconsin, was supposed to replace Dr. Kim Echols, whose resignation is effective July 1.
Board President Theresa Kelly, along with members Amanda Grant, Sam Valtierrez and Della Patterson, voted against the hire while Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and Rodney Alexander all voted for it.
Dissenting board members expressed concerns about the process by which Brazouski was selected. A hiring committee made up of union representatives and administrators interviewed candidates.
Rodriguez said Brazouski was the top candidate for the position. However, Maggie Riley, the president of the Proviso Teachers’ Union, remarked at the school board meeting that Brazouski had not been the most qualified candidate.
Based on a scoring system, Brazouski performed third among four candidates who applied for the position, Riley said.
“That’s not what this sheet of paper said,” Wagner responded.
Kelly, Grant, Valtierrez and Patterson also voted against the superintendent’s recommendations for two non-certified staff positions that would have entailed pay raises.
Rob Daniels, a program analyst, would have been reclassified as a digital media specialist — a move that would have resulted in a salary increase from $50,000 to $55,000 a year, according to district employment data.
Cynthia Moreno, the district’s community and public relations coordinator, would have been named director of communications and community outreach, which would have come with an increase in salary from $68,000 a year to $105,000 a year.
Rodriguez said the staff restructuring was “part of a plan in transforming the district. This is part of a plan of challenging the status quo.”
The superintendent said that the salary increases would not have went into effect until fiscal year 2019, which starts on July 1, and would have been “cost neutral.”
The staff changes, he added, are designed to “push instructional leadership and mentorship that is so needed in this school district. You have in your hands a potential strategy that can help in bringing the district forward.”
Medina, Wagner and Alexander all argued that the board should trust the superintendent’s employment recommendations, with Medina saying that the restructuring process “was handled with high [professionalism].”
The four board members who voted against the personnel recommendations, however, argued that they should be reconsidered in light of the district having made cuts in other areas, such as instruction.
Those members also echoed the concerns of Riley, who said that the superintendent’s staff recommendations appeared to “be business as usual.”
In particular, Riley zeroed in on the new position proposed for Moreno, which she said was “never posted” as required by the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
According to the agreement, Riley said, all administrative transfers and chair openings “shall be posted on the district’s website” or emailed to all union members so that those members who are qualified will be able to apply for the openings.
“What does giving someone a raise for over half of their salary say to your faculty and staff?” Riley said. “We were told there was no more money to give toward salaries.”
Shirley Magee, the president of the Proviso Support Staff Union, said that Moreno’s position “was originally billed as a lateral move before” it was described as a new position.
“Support staff is very familiar with lateral moves,” Magee said. “However … when we experience a lateral move, it comes with additional responsibilities and not additional pay.”
Magee said that the administrative salary increases come “on the heels of support staff receiving an increase in their insurance, when administrators pay nothing. This is a cost to the district. If we’re trying got save money maybe we should start there.”
Riley also had concerns about Brazouski’s proposed hire, a recommendation she said Rodriguez made over the recommendation of the interview panel.
Medina and Wagner said that the district is spending $60,000 less in administrative salaries than it spent last year and that, since the positions are considered non-certified staff, the superintendent is not required to post them.
Patterson suggested that the $60,000 cost savings was not really a savings, since the district removed the position of chairperson of a social studies department.
“You just moved somebody out of the way and put somebody else in,” Patterson said, adding that she was told that the district had no money to implement an eight-period day, a recommendation she had made some time ago.
“Now, all of a sudden, we have this influx of money,” Patterson said.
The three members in support of the staff restructuring, in addition to Rodriguez himself, suggested that voting against the superintendent’s recommendations signals that the district’s top administrator doesn’t have the power to restructure his own central office.
Alexander said that the board was “handcuffing” Rodriguez by voting down staff recommendations for “people he feels are qualified to take these positions.”
Board members did vote unanimously for Greta Mitchell-Williams, an 11-year D209 employee, to be promoted to director of curriculum, assessment and program evaluation, replacing Diane Deckert.
“[Some of you who just said that these amounts are too much also] voted for a ridiculously large increase [in voting for Greta’s promotion],” said Alexander. “I’m really confused how we pick and choose. And if this is not personal and it is not about individuals, how do you justify doing that for that employee?”
Grant said that she voted in favor of Mitchell-Williams’ promotion because the position was posted while Kelly stressed Mitchell-Williams’ “11 years of service” in the district and her “Ph.D.,” which, the board president added, “weighs for something.”
According to district employment data, Mitchell-Williams was getting paid around $84,000 in her previous position as chairperson of the math, sciences and technology department at Proviso Math and Science Academy.
Her new position, which comes with a salary of $133,646, would entail working with department chairs to establish a writing curriculum and evaluating programs, among other responsibilities, said Echols.
Mitchell-Williams will be getting paid roughly $1,000 less than what Deckert, who Echols said had slightly different responsibilities, was paid.
In addition, Kelly split with Patterson, Valtierrez and Grant, which allowed Rajeska Jackson to be promoted to the office of academics and family services as a district grants specialist, a position with a salary of $50,500, by a 4-3 vote.
Jackson had been hired last September as a call center receptionist in the superintendent’s office, a position with a salary of $35,000.
Kelly’s vote on Jackson outraged Alexander, who claimed that the board president was contradicting herself by voting for Jackson even though the grant specialist position had not been posted, which was the reason why Kelly said she was voting against Moreno’s and Daniels’ promotions.
“I can’t believe what just happened,” Alexander said, incensed. “I want the record to show the inconsistencies here.”
Kelly explained that she had “thought that [Jackson] was doing the job already,” before attempting to rescind her vote for the promotion. That attempt, however, was aborted after Kelly inadvertently voted down a motion to reconsider her initial vote, which was necessary in order for her to vote on the matter again.
“You felt one way a minute ago and now, all of a sudden, you’re changing,” Alexander said to Kelly. “Is that [because of me] or your feelings on the position? … I don’t know what you’re doing.”
Rodriguez said that although he believes he has the power to promote and “move people around per the Illinois School Code and my contract,” he would nonetheless follow the board’s lead if a majority of members directed him to start posting the non-certified staff positions. VFP
Watch the board discussion on the administrative hires and promotions below. It starts shortly after the 4:30:00 mark.
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