Tag: Dr. Jesse Rodriguez

D209 to Host Community Forum on Strategic Plan Tonight, Thursday, April 20, 6 PM

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District 209 students during a graduation ceremony last year. | File

Thursday, April 20, 2017 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

District 209 Superintendent Dr. Jesse Rodriguez and other district administrators will present aspects of a strategic plan for the district that is currently under development.

The plan is being developed with the consideration of data culled from Rodriguez’s recent listening, learning planning and researching tours.

This meeting will take place tonight, Thursday, April 20, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at Proviso Math and Science Academy, 8601 Roosevelt Rd. in Forest Park. See below for more details. 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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D209 Community Town Hall Sparks Optimism

Proviso East High

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || By Thomas Vogel 

Dozens of Forest Parkers gathered Jan. 24 at Forest Park Village Hall to share ideas about improving Proviso District 209, to meet school leadership — including newly hired Superintendent Jesse Rodriguez — and to brainstorm solutions to several persistent issues, including student underachievement.

The town hall-style get-together is part of a series of meetings organized by District 209, with school officials and board of education members heading to each Proviso feeder community to hear from community members and parents. D209 hired Rodriguez in July 2016, a year after a new slate of reform-minded members, including two from Forest Park, joined the high school board and signaled a renewed effort to revive the troubled school district.

“We have competition. We have many schools in the area,” Rodriguez said. “But we love our public schools and we can compete. Our public schools need to serve our families.”

The town hall featured remarks by Supt. Rodriguez, Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone and several school principals. District 91 officials, including Supt. Louis Cavallo, and board of education members Mary Win Conner and Eric Conner, were also in attendance, indicating the importance of cross-district collaboration.

“This is encouraging. There’s a renewed energy,” Calderone told the Review. “It has to start with parents. They have to say ‘We are taking charge.'”

The meeting’s several dozen attendees broke into three smaller groups — each led by one of Proviso’s three principals — to talk through concerns, express frustrations and ask questions. The discussions produced a wide-range of issues, including building maintenance, lackluster graduation rates, and the less-than-stellar public perception of D209, particularly in Forest Park.

Several attendees mentioned the need to shift the negative narrative surrounding Proviso schools. In years past, D209 made headlines for student fights and a fire, which forced class cancellations. Several attendees said the public’s view of Proviso has discouraged Forest Parkers from enrolling their children in the district.

Indeed, according to data provided to the Review by D209, there are 168 Forest Park students in the district’s three high schools as of January 2017. The only other community with fewer children enrolled is Northlake with 113 students. Other communities, including Maywood and Melrose Park, send a much larger student population to D209.

Even accounting for differences in general population, Forest Park still sends a relatively smaller group of students. Hillside, for instance, has around about six thousand fewer residents than Forest Park but sends nearly double the number of students — 324.

Forest Park has a troubled history with D209, including efforts to leave the Proviso school system several years ago. For decades, many Forest Parkers have opted to send their children to private or parochial schools instead and, save for this latest election, community representation on the board of education has not been robust.

Attendees acknowledged this history but also steered the evening’s conversations toward what is working well in the district, including more extracurricular activities, the district’s new leadership, and the feeling of renewed optimism from parents and community members.

The event concluded with attendees gathering in a circle and sharing one word to describe the past few hours. A sense of optimism was palpable as attendees chose words such as “inspired,” “empowered,” and “proud.”

Positivity aside, challenges still exist.  The district’s 2016 four-year graduation rate was 73.5 percent, more than 10 percentage points below the state average, according to the Illinois Report Card, the state’s official source. Other metrics, including the rate of graduating seniors enrolling in two- or four-year colleges is also below state average. District performance on statewide tests, including the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) also leave plenty of room for improvement.

“It’s a work in progress,” Claudia Medina, one of two D209 board members from Forest Park, said. “We have to engage the community.”

A few attendees felt energized by the number of people at the meeting but mentioned the need to keep momentum moving forward.

“The turnout is good,” Forest Parker and Proviso East alum Jeremy Horn said. “It’s a stepping stone. Let’s support our high school district.”

Other expressed their approval for the new D209 administration.

“It’s a breath of fresh air,” Rodney Alexander said of Rodriguez’s leadership. “He’s engaged and has a pulse on the schools.”

Alexander said he’s already decided to send his young son, who is in fourth grade, to Proviso for high school. Alexander is running for a spot on the D209 Board of Education in the upcoming April 4 election.

“Change is possible when people get involved,” Alexander said. “We gotta roll up our sleeves.” VFP

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