Tag: Bellwood District 88

Bellwood District 88 Does a 180

Thursday, August 24, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Nowadays, the climate at Bellwood School District 88 board meetings is a lot more placid than just a year ago — when they were policed by armed, bulletproof vest-wearing security guards hired by former D88 Supt. Rosemary Hendricks.

Continue reading “Bellwood District 88 Does a 180”

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D88 Board Fires HR Director Who Worked Two Jobs, Approves Contract for Interim Supt.

BSD88_logo2015Wednesday, June 7, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Last month, the newly configured Bellwood District 88 school board voted 6 to 1 to place Supt. Rosemary Hendricks on paid administrative leave “pending investigation.” Former board president Marilyn Thurmond was the only dissenting vote.

This month, the district’s human resources director, Dr. Kisha McCaskill, got the axe. In addition to her HR job McCaskill had also held down a full-time job as executive director of the Harvey Park District. Her husband, Anthony McCaskill, was the park district board president.

McCaskill is also a member of the Harvey School District 152 school board. As with the Hendricks vote, Thurmond was the only member to vote against McCaskill’s termination. Board member Annie Copeland wasn’t present for the vote.

McCaskill is just the latest casualty of April’s election, when reform candidates Maria Perez, Deborah Giles and Dorothy Clark-Smith won seats to the 7-person school board and upset a board majority that was largely responsible for keeping Hendricks, and the many apparent patronage hires and contracts she and Thurmond oversaw, in place.

Perez, Giles and Clark-Smith have joined with new board president Sondra McClendon — a vocal opponent of Thurmond and Hendricks — in slowly reinstating defunct board policies, terminating employees with apparent conflicts of interest or whose jobs seem to be due to relationships with top administrators — all issues that the three new board members ran on. The district didn’t cite any specific reason for McCaskill’s termination, since it’s a personnel matter.

According to a D88 official, the district has found a temporary replacement for McCaskill but that person hasn’t been formally introduced. The official also said that the Hendricks investigation is ongoing.

In addition to terminating McCaskill, the school board also voted unanimously to authorize a contract for Interim Superintendent Mark Holder, who was instated last month after Hendricks was placed on leave.

This is the third time that Hendricks has exited the district. According to a Cook County Chronicle report, Hendricks has “revolved in and out of the district three times in 10 years, as nine superintendents came and went in 15 years.

“She was first hired in 2007, then resigned with a $75,000 settlement. Hendricks was rehired by the board in 2010, but then fired for misconduct two years later and sued the district, which later settled for $45,000.  Hendricks was brought back as an interim, but then the board bypassed a search and awarded a two-year, $170,000 contract to Hendricks, as parents complained.”

Along with personnel changes, the D88 board, at McClendon’s urging, also reinstated monthly committee meetings that had been discontinued under Thurmond.

“Those meetings were important because a lot of questions we had about bills and other matters could get answered during those meetings,” McClendon said.

The board president added that the committee meetings, which would include all board members, would be dedicated to detailed discussion on action items that would be up for votes at the regular meetings. McClendon said that this would cut short the length of those regular meetings.

The meeting change will start in July, when the board is expected to begin discussion of possibly approving a travel expense control resolution. VFP

Breaking: Bellwood D88 Supt. Put on Paid Administrative Leave

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Bellwood D88 Supt. Rosemary Hendricks, who was placed on paid administrative leave on May 8. | Screenshot of the district’s website, SD88.org 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

During a brief May 8 special meeting, the Bellwood District 88 school board voted 6 to 1 to place D88 Supt. Rosemary Hendricks on paid administrative leave “pending investigation.” Former board president Marilyn Thurmond was the sole dissenting vote.

The board had discussed the pending investigation in executive session before reconvening the meeting.

In addition, the board voted 5 to 2 to appoint Mark Holder, the principal at Roosevelt Middle School, as interim superintendent. Board members Thurmond and Annie Copeland were the two dissenting votes.

The board adjourned the meeting shortly after the votes.

This development had been anticipated by many in the district after new board members Deborah Giles, Maria Perez and Dorothy Clark-Smith, all members of the Bellwood Education Dream Team slate, won seats on the school board.

The new members were all vocal opponents of the policies and practices put in place under Thurmond and Hendricks, whose leave comes two years after she was hired for a third time in 2014-15 school year. VFP

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A Brief Conversation with New D88 Board President Sondra McClendon

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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

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MFA AD_April 2017

Bellwood D88 Gains Three New Board Members, Board President Wins Reelection

April 5, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 12:46 p.m. 

Bellwood District 88 gained three new board seats on April 4 when residents elected Dorothy C. Smith, Deborah L. Giles and Maria D. Perez of the Bellwood Dream Team party. Board President Marilyn A. Thurman won her bid for reelection.

The new board composition could affect a district that many residents say had fallen under the spell of Supt. Rosemary Hendricks, who had been fired twice before the board hired her for a third time in 2015.

In January, the board approved a one-year extension of Hendricks’ $180,000 contract. The new members will have a significant say on the status of Hendricks’ long-term employment in the district and the fate of the district’s $35 million budget.

In District 89, school board incumbents Veronica Bonilla-Lopez and Regina Rivers coasted to victory. Sally Alondra Casillas, a challenger, will join them. VFP

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that all four members of the Bellwood Dream Team party won seats on the D88 board and, thus, comprised a new board majority. Board President Marilyn Thurman won her bid for reelection. VFP regrets the error. 

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Briefly: Man Who Shot Himself Outside of Beggar’s Pizza Won’t Face Charges, Maywood Detective Says | Meet Maywood’s New HR Coordinator | More

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Beggar’s Pizza, 621 W. Roosevelt Rd. | Google Earth

Friday, December 2, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

A man who shot himself outside of Beggar’s Pizza, 621 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Maywood, won’t face charges, according to Maywood Det. Dennis Diaz. The incident happened Monday evening, police said.

The man, who’s identity hasn’t been confirmed yet, is a concealed weapon carrier who had just ordered food from Beggar’s.

“He was in his own car in the parking lot and was reaching for his keys when the gun discarded in his pocket,” Diaz said.

The man, he said, suffered a gunshot wound to the leg and was taken to nearby Loyola University Medical Center. His condition isn’t known, but police say the gunshot wound wasn’t fatal.

“It happened while officers were in a MAPS [Maywood Alternative Policing Strategies] meeting,” said Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley. “We were giving a presentation when the guy was shot. My staff had to run out and see what happened.”

Talley said the unfortunate accident illustrates why he isn’t a supporter of some concealed carry language.

“You’re supposed to keep your gun in a holster and a lot of people don’t,” Talley said.

Maywood HR coordinator installed 

Banks.jpgIn January, we reported that the village had terminated HR Coordinator Wilhelmina Dunbar that month.

Since then, the village has installed Dunbar’s replacement, LaSondra Banks, whose LinkedIn profile notes that she’s been in the position since July.

Banks, who holds a master’s degree in human resources management, is also an adjunct professor in that area at Triton College, her profile indicates.

Before being brought on as HR coordinator with the village, Banks was program director for the Maywood Park District, where she’d been since September 2013. She also served a stint as a program manager for the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) for Maywood from March 2011 to December 2012.

Chicago Tribune wants state to investigate D88

The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board wants the Illinois State Board of Education to investigate Bellwood District 88 in light of a Tribune report that indicates the district went into a no-bid contract with a local cab company to transport homeless and special education students to and from school.

“People Cab Co. has been paid $605,000 since 2011 to shuttle homeless and special education students to and from school,” the Editorial Board notes.

“That’s far more than what neighboring school districts pay. In 2015, the combined taxi cost for Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview School District 89 and Berkeley School District 87 was $47,000. Bellwood’s tab that year: $192,000. And get this: The Maywood and Berkeley districts had more homeless students that year — a combined 88 students compared with Bellwood’s 42 students. Bellwood also had a smaller share of special needs students than Maywood or Berkeley.” […]

“The Illinois State Board of Education has yet to look into Bellwood. We’ve asked why not.”

Read the ISBE’s response in the full Tribune editorial here. VFP

F E A T U R E D  E V E N T S

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Bellwood School District Facing More Scrutiny Over Spending

Marilyn Thurman.pngMonday, November 28, 2016 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

The Chicago Tribune has published an article today about Bellwood School District 88, which apparently has paid $605,000 to People Cab Co. since 2011 on transportation services for homeless and special education students.

“More than half — or $311,000 — of those expenses were authorized by the board during the past two school years alone, records obtained by the Tribune show.”

The contract with People Cab, which was approved without a bidding process, was supported by Marilyn Thurman, D88’s school board president, pictured above left. The Tribune claims that the father of Thurman’s son drives for the company.

Thurman, (who along with the district’s superintendent, Rosemary Hendricks, declined to comment on the story), said that she supported the no-bid contract with People because it’s difficult predicting the monthly transportation needs, or the number, of the district’s homeless and special education students.

The Tribune reported that less than 2 percent of Bellwood’s student population was homeless at some point in the 2015 school year (or 42 students). In nearby Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89, 67 students were homeless at some point that year. And Berkeley School District 87 had 21 students experience homelessness in 2015.

“In contrast, the Berkeley and Maywood districts spent a combined $47,000 that year, a fraction of the nearly $192,000 spent in Bellwood,” the Tribune notes.

To read the full Tribune article, click here. VFP

Photo credit: Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune

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