Tag: Claudia Medina

D209 Administrators Get Slight Pay Raises

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

During a June 12 regular meeting, the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board voted 5-2 to approve salary raises for district administrators. The pay increases ranged from 0.5 percent to 4.5 percent, depending on an employee’s classification.

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D209 Debates ‘Required’ Parent Meeting

Tuesday, July 3, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: A Parent University meeting at Proviso Math and Science Academy in 2015. | District 209 

Starting next school year, parents at Proviso Township High Schools District 209 will be required to attend an annual orientation meeting. In April, the D209 school board voted unanimously to add the requirement to the district’s School-Parent Compact, which every student, parent and/or legal guardian is required to sign.

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After DACA’s End, A Fresh Round of Anxiety

Monday, September 18, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Community members at a Sept. 8 informational meeting at PASO-West Suburban Action Project in Melrose Park. | Alexa Rogals/Wednesday Journal 

President Donald Trump’s recent decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy implemented in 2012 by President Barack Obama, has many community members in Proviso Township worried, anxious and preparing to push back.

Continue reading “After DACA’s End, A Fresh Round of Anxiety”

Welch Sponsors ‘Safe Zones’ Immigrant Bill

Welch.pngTuesday, May 9, 2017 || By Tom Holmes || Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews

On Jan. 12, Rep. Emmanuel “Chris” Welch (D-8th) filed a billed called the Immigration Safe Zones Act, HB426. A synopsis of HB426 on the State of Illinois General Assembly website states:

“[HB426] provides that schools, medical treatment and health care facilities, and places of worship may not grant access to state and local law enforcement agencies that have entered into an agreement with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] or undertake other joint efforts with federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies to investigate, detain, or arrest individuals for violation of federal immigration law, unless a court has issued a warrant.”

Welch clarified the synopsis, noting, “The Immigrant Safe Zones Act is not a sanctuary bill. It is not saying that just by being in the state of Illinois you are protected from immigration officials.”

“Without a warrant,” he emphasized, “that’s the key phrase. We’re not trying to violate federal law. If law enforcement officials come to the door of a school, hospital or church, with a valid warrant, we’re going to allow them to execute that warrant.

“If they show up at a school, hospital or place of worship without a warrant, we’re saying, ‘Come back when you get one. We’re also saying that schools, hospitals and churches may not share information with law enforcement officials, again, without a warrant. Parents should feel comfortable sharing information when they register their children for school or when they enter a health care facility.”

“I came up with the idea by working with Forest Parker Claudia Medina,” Welch said, “who is a board member of an organization based in Melrose Park called PASO.”

The website of Proyecto de Accion de los Suburbios del Oeste, or West Suburban Action Project, states that it “is a community-based social justice organization that works to engage community members to act through their faith and values to address issues that affect them, their families, and neighbors with the mission to build stronger communities where all residents can live dignified lives, regardless of their race, socioeconomic or immigration status.”

What motivated Rep. Welch to file HB426 was the presidential election. Medina, who is also a District 209 school board member, and Welch were troubled by the fact that many students at Proviso East came to school the day after the election in November extremely frightened.

“Students showed up at school crying,” Welch remembered. “They were emotional wrecks because they were afraid they would get home and find that their parents had been deported. They were afraid that ICE officials would burst into their school and take them away.”

“So many people are living in fear right now,” he continued, “that it’s important we send a signal to the about 2 million immigrants living in Illinois right now: You are welcome; don’t live in fear; stay here; spend your money here; go to our colleges and universities.”

In response to critics who contend that passage of the bill would cause the state of Illinois to lose federal dollars, Welch repeated that HB426 is not the kind of sanctuary bill that President Trump is talking about.

To those who say it will encourage illegal immigrants to come to our area, Welch said he believes we have a right to protect our borders but that our nation’s vetting process is already pretty good.

And responding to folks who say immigrants are taking jobs away from U.S. citizens, Welch said, “The research I’m familiar with shows that welcoming cities that have policies similar to my bill have lower crime rates and lower unemployment.”

He cited the example of a Pakistani man who has run a hardware store in Broadview for 36 years and who employs people from the community and pays taxes there. Welch added that we want immigrants to feel safe to invest money and start businesses in our communities without the fear that they will be raided by the government.

HB426 is similar to the welcoming ordinance passed recently in Oak Park and to the one being proposed in Forest Park. PASO has been involved in the creation of all three.

On Feb. 8 the bill was passed by the Human Services Committee on a strictly partisan vote: 7 Democrats yes and 4 Republicans no. As of Feb. 9 the bill had been placed on the House calendar for what is called a second reading and 19 representatives had signed on as co-sponsors.

The Illinois Senate is now considering a bill called the Illinois Trust Act (SB 31 – J. Cullerton) which includes Welch’s bill, HB 426 and adds three provisions to it:

1) No deputizing of local police to serve as immigration agents

2) Law enforcement certifications for immigrant crime victims

3) No discriminatory registry programs

The Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois on May 2 summarized the bill by stating: “The Illinois Trust Act sets reasonable, constitutional limits on local police interaction with ICE enforcement, and fosters trust between local police and immigrant communities.” VFP

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New D209 Board Majority Sworn Into Office, Kelly Re-Assumes Presidency

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A screenshot of live video feed posted to Facebook by Proviso Together showing the slate’s four candidates getting sworn into office at PMSA on April 27. 

Friday, April 28, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Three years after members of the Facebook group “Forest Parkers For Better Schools” met inside of Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor in Forest Park to talk about the direction of Proviso Township High Schools District 209, the group is now solidly steering the ship.

In 2015, the group, informally called the “Brown Cow 20,” fielded Proviso Together, a three-person slate of candidates to run for three open school board seats. All three candidates — longtime incumbent board member Teresa Kelly, Claudia Medina and Ned Wagner — won handily.

Two years later, Proviso Together pulled off another sweep, with all four of its candidates — Amanda Grant, Sam Valtierrez, Della Patterson and Rodney Alexander — winning first terms.

At an April 27 special meeting held inside of the cafeteria at Proviso Math and Science Academy, the four new board members were sworn into office by outgoing board president Theresa McKelvy and Kelly re-assumed the presidency after a unanimous vote.

Grant, who garnered the most votes among the 8-person school board race, was voted vice president while Medina was voted secretary.

In 2016, a year after Kelly had been elected board president, she was ousted from that position when board members McKelvy, Brian Cross, Dan Adams and Kevin McDermott voted to shorten the board president’s tenure from two years to one. McKelvy was then voted Kelly’s successor.

With Kelly again at the helm, the new supermajority is hoping that they can pull off a complete overhaul of a district where, fewer than five years ago, Wagner and Medina were worried about sending their children.

On Thursday, both board members announced that each had one child who would be enrolling at PMSA in the fall. Medina said that when her son received his acceptance letter to PMSA, he called Ned’s son.

“[My son] said, ‘No matter what we do, we’re going to stay together,’” Medina said. “We’re all here together.”

In their remarks, all of the board members stressed unity and togetherness, a constant theme of both the 2015 and 2017 campaigns.

“It is time for Proviso to unite and to be one union,” said new board member Sam Valtierrez, of Melrose Park. “We have to break the curse of disunity that has broken our community. We must get involved and let the fear go. [That’s how we’ll] see the transformation of our wonderful schools.”

“There is a wealth of talented and amazing people here,” said Grant. “We have the resources. We pay about $90 million in taxes each year to Proviso District 209. What we needed all along and have been sorely lacking is a unified board of education that understands that students come first.”

“I pledge to be earnest, hardworking, full-time, available and consistent in discharging these responsibilities and duties,” said Alexander. “And most of all, I pledge to work together [with fellow board members] as a team.”

Some board members emphasized the importance of enhancing equity at the district. The issue was a centerpiece of a burgeoning strategic plan that D209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez presented to the public at a meeting at PMSA last week.

“I am fully committed to working with all community stakeholders to ensure that regardless of where your child is enrolled, he or she will have the resources to succeed,” said Patterson.

Patterson added that her focus will be on raising the district’s standard of academic performance, increasing the range and amount of selective courses that are offered and making AP and IB courses more widely available at Proviso East and Proviso West.

Wagner said that he plans on building on the record of accomplishments, particularly in the area of equity, that have been secured during the young tenure of Rodriguez, who was hired roughly a year ago.

“I want to continue working on making our schools a welcoming environment for our kids and parents,” Wagner said, before pointing out a range of measures that have been implemented within the last two years, such as offering more training for security staff at the district and putting in place restorative justice measures at the school a year before the passage of SB 100.

“We were talking about restorative justice a year before SB 100 was passed, which is the law that schools have to do everything they can to keep kids in school rather than just expelling or suspending them,” he said. “We put some good practices in so we’re in really good shape. I want us to build on that, expand on that and create a culture of understanding ad acceptance in our schools so our kids can grow into responsible adults.”

Kelly presented each board member with copies of compasses, “to remind us to measure our progress, because we know that movement does not necessarily mean progress. Each of us as a group has a moral compass that will allow us to know right from wrong, good from bad.”

“We are no longer responsible to the interest of any one person or special group,” Kelly said, “but we are accountable to all of our children and to all of our communities.” VFP

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District 209 to Undertake Master Facilities Plan, Will Select an Architect Soon

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The image of Proviso East High School as it appears on a postcard published by Al’s Service | cardcow.com 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 || By Thomas Vogel for Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews

The Proviso School District 209 Board of Education will select an architecture firm at its March 14 meeting to draft a “Master Facilities Plan” for the entire three-school district.

The project, which could cost up to $80,000 and take about six months to complete, will be well worth the investment, District Supt. Jesse Rodriguez said March 3. Right now, the district does not have a comprehensive long-term roadmap for its facilities. Instead, D209 uses a “Capital Construction List.”

The motivation for commissioning a Master Facilities Plan, Rodriguez said, is to give the district a better, more holistic vision for the next 5-10 years and integrate space utilization, curriculum needs, new technological integration, enrollment projections and necessary facility upgrades into one comprehensive document.

“Our district spent many years not addressing the capital needs of our buildings. We are starting the process,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot to be done.”

The school board will decide between three firms: Fanning Howey, Perkins+Will, and ARCON. Each firm made their pitch at a special meeting on Feb 21. The presentations, Rodriguez said, were graded by board members on a matrix, using several categories, including architectural project history, educational recommendations for Proviso, and even company culture.

It is unclear how the board will vote. Rodriguez said March 3 it is a “very hard decision.”

But one board member, Forest Parker Ned Wagner, said on Feb. 25 that he favored Perkins+Will, which scored highest on the matrix.

“They had a fabulous presentation,” Wagner said. “They have the clearest vision.”

When reached by phone March 7, Wagner said that having a Master Facilities Plan is one of the conditions for the state-mandated Financial Oversight Panel to leave the district and concurred with Rodriguez about the positive return on investment.

Requests for comment from board members Claudia Medina, Teresa McKelvy and Brian Cross were not returned by press time.

For now, exact terms of the any agreement remain unsettled.

Perkins+Will has offices across the United States, but the firm was founded in Chicago in the 1930s, according to its website. Perkins+Will did not return a request for comment by press time.

Fanning Howey has several offices across the Midwest, including Oak Brook, and has completed projects in several Chicago-area schools in Deerfield and Waukegan. Fanning Howey did not return a request for comment by press time.

Lombard-based ARCON has worked in several suburbs, too, including Evanston and Hanover Park. An ARCON spokesperson, Richard Cozzi, said he wasn’t briefed on the details of the on the Proviso presentation and declined comment. VFP

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District 209 Declares Itself a ‘Welcoming and Safe District’ for All Students

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Members of the District 209 school board during a Feb. 15 board meeting where they passed a resolution designating the district “welcoming and safe.” Click the image to access the meeting video. The discussion on the resolution starts at around the 54:00 mark. 

Friday, February 17, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 12:44 p.m.

At a Feb. 15 regular meeting, the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board voted 5 to 1 in favor of a resolution that would reaffirm the district “as a Welcoming and Safe District for all students.” The resolution was read in both English and Spanish by board members.

During the discussion preceding the resolution’s passage, board member Claudia Medina said that the measure will make the district “have a conversation … to ensure that we follow the correct procedures and know exactly what to do in extreme cases, because there are scenarios that will be presented to us with this change of government that will require us to have conversations that we haven’t had yet.”

Medina cited the executive order President Donald J. Trump signed last month that calls for the hiring of 10,000 new immigration officers.

Trump also called “for the deportation of immigrants living here illegally who have been convicted of a crime, been charged with a crime, committed acts that ‘constitute a chargeable criminal offense,’ have abused a program related to public benefits, who have been subject to ‘a final order of removal,’ or who in the judgment of an immigration officer ‘pose a risk to public safety or national security,'” according to a Chicago Tribune report.

In addition, the president called for a portion of federal funding to be cut for sanctuary cities, including Chicago. Last month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reaffirmed the city’s designation as a sanctuary city.

The District 209 resolution reinforces the district’s commitment “to ensuring that all schools and district facilities are welcoming and safe places for students and their families,” and for providing a free public education to all area students “regardless of their immigration status.”

The resolution also addresses U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for seizing illegal immigrants.

Earlier this month, ICE announced that it had conducted raids in several metropolitan areas across the country, including in the Chicago area. Agency officials said that ICE arrested 680 people across the country “who pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.”Forty-seven of those arrests took place in the Chicago area, with one arrest happening in Melrose Park.

The district’s resolution comes in the wake of measures taken by other government bodies, including Oak Park — which recently designated itself a Sanctuary City — and former D209 board president and state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), who has sponsored the Immigration Safe Zones Act (or HB 462).

Other municipalities within District 209’s borders, including Maywood, Melrose Park and Forest Park, have considered passing Sanctuary City ordinances. Over 53 percent of the district’s student population is Hispanic and 30 percent of the residents in Proviso Township are Hispanic.

“I was listening to a story about someone in a neighboring community, a seventh-grader, who was scared to go to school because he was afraid that his parents may not be home when he got back from school,” said Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon during board discussions held Feb. 15 about possibly designating that village a Sanctuary City.

And Welch said that his office received calls from students who were “crying and needed to be counseled all day because … the rhetoric they heard in the presidential campaign was quite disturbing,” according to a report by the West Suburban Journal.

Welch’s proposal gives schools, health care facilities, and places of worship the power to deny access to state and local law enforcement agencies that cooperate with ICE to “investigate, detain or arrest” anyone in violation of federal immigration law, unless a court warrant has been issued, among other provisions. The bill is still up for debate in the House.

There was heated discussion among District 209 board members Medina and Dan Adams about the wisdom of passing the resolution after President Trump had issued his executive order threatening to cut funding from entities that would defy federal immigration laws and ICE officials.

The resolution states that “unless specifically required by law,” anyone formally associated with the district, including employees, representatives, volunteers and contractors, “shall refrain from inquiring about immigration status or to produce documentation regarding immigration status of a student or parent.”

The resolution also advises district employees, contractors, volunteers and representatives to require any ICE official attempting to enter district facilities to first notify the superintendent and the district’s general counsel “in advance of such entry and provide proper written authority.”

Adams said that the district doesn’t have the authority to stop an ICE official from entering a school facility.

“They don’t have to listen to you,” Adams said. “They can just come in here. You can’t say, ‘Hey you have to call the superintendent.’ They’re not calling the superintendent. They’re coming in. End of story.”

William Gleason, the district’s legal counsel, said that if an ICE official shows up at a district facility “without a warrant and tells you they’re going to take somebody, I would not advise any of your staff or officials to impede with a government official because even if their action is unlawful, your interference is a crime.”

Gleason said that, typically, ICE officials don’t go into “sensitive areas,” such as churches and schools; however, there is no certainty that this longstanding protocol will continue under the current presidential administration, he conceded.

“Legally they would not be required to call superintendent, but most law enforcement officials are willing to cooperate with you to a reasonable degree,” Gleason said. “But most of the time if they said, ‘We don’t care,’ there would be no means for us to physically stop them.” 

Gleason added that he believes it’s unlikely that ICE agents will enter school facilities in order to fish for students who are illegal immigrants. He said that, when they do enter sensitive areas, they usually have a warrant to arrest a particular person.

“If they show up for a specific reason, your resolution is not going to stop them,” he said.

Adams, who voted against the measure, argued that the resolution’s lack of enforcement power to stop ICE renders it meaningless and that, since it reinforces many of district policies that are already implemented, it is unnecessarily duplicative. He also argued that it could potentially harm the district by putting it in the position to lose federal funding with the designation.

“This means absolutely nothing,” Adams said. “You’re giving kids a false sense of security by saying, ‘Oh, if we pass this resolution, you’re safe and this is a safe zone.’ … What are we going to do if they withhold funds? Are we going to raise taxes? …  Has anybody ever come here and taken anybody? Has ICE ever come to this building No. Nobody’s ever been deported from their school. But now you’re shining a spotlight on us.”

As Medina pointed out, whether or not local municipalities would actually lose federal funding by adopting Sanctuary City legislation, however, is a matter of considerable national debate — despite President Donald J. Trump’s campaign pledge to “eliminate all federal funding from sanctuary localities.”

“Cities, counties and states with sanctuary policies get federal money from dozens of different departments, most of which are not related to immigration,” the Washington Post reported.

Board members said that the resolution could be subject to change after further review, but that the principle underlying the document is fixed in place.

“[This resolution is] to assure and to reaffirm that [the district] is safe and welcoming for all students,” said Superintendent Jesse Rodriguez. Read the full resolution below. VFP

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