Tag: Francine Harrell

Analyzing Campaign Cash in D209 Board Race

Children FirstFriday, April 17, 2015 || Originally Published: School Board Focus West || By Jean Lotus 

A grassroots campaign of motivated volunteers, many from Forest Park, toppled a 15-year majority on the school board of Proviso Township High School District 209 this April. How did it happen? Campaign contributions to the political committees of each slate tell part of the story.

The Proviso Children’s First Party raised almost 50 percent more money than the Proviso Together slate of Theresa Kelly, Claudia Medina and Ned Wagner. For the 12,093 ballots cast in the race, Kelly, Medina and Wagner raised $2.44 per vote while Children’s First raised $3.67, nearly 50 percent more.

Analyzing how the money flows in local elections is mostly a hindsight game, as the State of Illinois does not require political committees to disclose contributions until April 15, after the votes have been counted for local elections the first Tuesday of April. Furthermore, by that date candidates are only required to disclose contributions and disbursements up until April 1. This leaves money-shifting in a campaign’s final days under wraps until July, when committees disclose their second quarter numbers.

But in the case of District 209, illuminating differences show up between the committees of Proviso Together and Proviso Children’s First Party in the amounts donated, number of donors and the people writing checks.

Citizens for Kelly, Medina and Wagner raised $29,477 between Jan. 1 –March 31, including in-kind donations. The Proviso Children’s First Party raised almost 50 percent more, reporting $44,339 in all contributions.

A difference was the Children’s First slate received a much higher amount of in-kind donations, including last-minute printing donations totaling $11,664 reported April 1 from 7th District State Rep. Chris Welch and Del Galdo Law Group, the school district’s law firm.

The number of donors and amounts given also underscores the differences in the campaigns. As might be expected in a grass-roots campaign, Kelly, Medina and Wagner received donations from 35 individual donors, many of whom had Forest Park addresses. Donations were small but frequent, ranging from $25 to $650 for a total of 96. One local politician, Forest Park Village Commissioner and mayoral candidate Chris Harris, gave three donations totaling $355.

The Children’s First committee was able to take in more money from fewer donors, and stretched its fundraising reach to politicians outside Proviso Township. The committee reported 17 total donations between Feb. 22– when it was formed — and April 1.

Political transfers

Children’s First received $500 each from the war chests of Mayor Larry Dominick of Cicero; 92nd Dist. Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth of Peoria and the SEIU Local 73 PAC. Proviso Township Supervisor Michael Corrigan also kicked in $500.

During this timeframe these politicians also transferred money among and between the political campaign chests of mayors Ron Serpico of Melrose Park; Christopher Getty of Lyons and Steve Landek of Bridgeview, as well as Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolsky of McCook.

Another familiar political name to Forest Parkers was Forest Park’s hired lobbyist Matthew O’Shea who donated $500 to Children’s First. O’Shea pops up on Welch’s campaign donor list multiple times over the past several years.

Self-financing:

The amount of money contributed by candidates and their households was almost 10 times higher by Children’s First candidates than the Kelly-Medina-Wagner slate.

Candidates Francine Harrell, Teddy Matthews and ShawnTe Raines-Welch each donated $5,000 to the committee. When family contributions from Chris Welch to his wife’s campaign are included, the total amount self-financed was $20,075.

In contrast Nathan “Ned” Wagner and family members donated around $1,900 to the campaign, and candidate Theresa Kelly donated $850.

Business donations

Other heavy-hitters to the Children’s First campaign included businesses Restore Construction ($1,000) and M & M Building Services ($250), both vendors to the school district. Both companies were hired in the $5 million reconstruction of Proviso East High School after a May 2014 fire.

There was only one business donation to Kelly Medina and Wagner: $500 from Circle F Properties in Naperville.

Proviso District 209 School Board race by the numbers:

Proviso Together vs. Children’s First

Number of donors: 35 vs. 13

Number of donations: 95 vs. 17

Contributed $ per vote $2.49 vs. $3.67

Candidate self-financing $2,750 vs. $20,075

Political committee transfers $0 vs. $2,000

Total contributions $29,477 vs. $44,339 VFP

Contact: schoolboardfocuswest@gmail.com. 

Advertisements

Mystery Campaign Flyers Enter D209 Race

D209 Mailer Rotated

A mailer paid for by the mysterious Proviso Ministers Alliance. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 || Originally Published: The Forest Park Review || By Bob Skolnik

Candidates say ads seem intent on sowing confusion and racial division

With the school board election just one week away, the silly season in the hotly contested Proviso District 209 school board race has arrived. Fliers have begun appearing that seem to be trying to cut into support for hometown candidates Ned Wagner and Claudia Medina.

Backers of the opposing Children First Party slate, which consists of incumbent Francine Harrell, ShawnTe Raines-Welch (wife of former D209 board president and current state Rep. Chris Welch) and Theodore Matthews, are attacking Wagner and Medina and their running-mate Theresa Kelly. They are also attacking Mayor Anthony Calderone. Two fliers rip into Calderone, who has endorsed Medina and Wagner but not Kelly. One seems explicitly designed to appeal to supporters of Calderone’s opponent in the mayoral election, Chris Harris, and independent village council candidate Dan Novak.

On one side of that flier is a picture of Calderone cupping his hands to his mouth with the words “Proviso High School Stinks.” The rest of that side of the flier is devoted to derogatory comments about Calderone’s performance in office with statements such as “Calderone’s failures have led businesses and residents to leave Forest Park for better communities.”

The other side of the flier urges voters to vote for Harris for mayor, Novak for commissioner and Matthews, Raines-Welch and Harrell for the District 209 Board of Education.

D209 Mailer Rotated II

The reverse side of the mailer.

The flier is paid for and being mailed to voters by the previously unheard-of group Citizens for a Better Forest Park. No record of Citizens for a Better Forest Park exists, but campaign committees do not have to register with the state unless they raise $5,000.

The irony of the flier is that Harris and Novak have both been vocal supporters of the 209 Together slate of Medina, Wagner and Kelly.

“It’s just a filthy campaign trick,” said Harris. “The [Children’s First slate] people know they’re going to get hammered in Forest Park, and they’re trying to deceive to get votes in any way they can. They’re pulling out all the stops. I received dozens of calls and emails after that came out from confused people, and I had to clearly state yet again that in no way am I supporting those three people.”

Raines-Welch told the Forest Park Review that she doesn’t know who is behind Citizens for a Better Forest Park.

Calderone also said he didn’t know who was behind the fliers attacking him.

Another flier — this one paid for something called the Proviso Township Ministers Alliance, which apparently doesn’t exist (though there is a Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance) — seems to be playing the race card by specifically appealing to black voters. It was put on car windshields last Sunday while both sets of candidates were appearing at the Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood.

On one side of the flier is a photograph of a black teenage boy with the statement, “Shouldn’t Those We Elect to Our School Board Understand Our Community?”

On the other side are photos of Wagner who is white and Medina who is Hispanic, along with photos of Harrell, Raines-Welch and Matthews, who are black. The flier claims that “Mayor Calderone is trying to take over the board by electing members of his community when they make up less than 10% of the entire district.”

The flier urges people to vote for Harrell, Matthews and Raines-Welch. It says, “On April 7, Reject Anthony Calderone by Voting for Candidates Who Understand Our Community.”

“It leaves out the fact that the third person on our ticket is Theresa Kelly, an African American woman from Maywood,” Wagner said. “They’re targeting African American people in Maywood, which is largely the people who go to Rock of Ages. And then they’re pitting Forest Park against Maywood.”

Theresa Kelly RotatedAnother flier, this one paid for by the Children First Party, attacks Kelly. It shows an apparently manipulated photo of Kelly at a resort swimming pool and accuses her of taking more taxpayer-funded trips than all other Proviso school board members combined. Kelly has served on the school board for 16 years, longer than any other member of the board. On other side of the flier is the photo of a boy sitting in a classroom with his head down on his knees. Under the photo is the caption, “Under Board Member Theresa Kelly’s Leadership 80% of Proviso Students Are Not Academically Prepared To Attend College.”

Raines-Welch, who is married to state Rep. Chris Welch, a longtime former Proviso 209 school board president, said the flier is a fair response to Kelly citing her long tenure on the school board.

“She’s the one going around touting that she’s been the longest-serving member, so it’s only logical that she had a hand in the state of the district at this point,” Raines-Welch said. “Remember, it didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen just by her sitting by idly on the sidelines. You can attribute that flier as a response to her own comments.”

Wagner called the fliers “hate pieces.”

“They’re putting out a lot of hate,” Wagner said. “This is a school board election; we’re talking about the education of our children. These people are campaigning on a message of hate and smear, and I find that repellent.”

He said the fliers are a sign that his opponents are worried.

“I think what it boils down to is that they’re scared,” Wagner said. “I don’t think in their wildest dreams they thought they would encounter a grassroots movement of this magnitude.” VFP

District 209 Board Candidates Lay Out Opposing Positions

Children FirstHarrell, Matthews and Raines-Welch.

District 209 Together CandidatesWagner, Madina and Kelly

Monday, March 30, 2015 || By Michael Romain 

The District 209 Board of Education race is essentially a contest of two opposing visions. The two competing sides offered stark contrasts in both governing style and potential policy directions during Wednesday Journal endorsement interviews in March.

The Children First slate, comprising municipal and education attorney ShawnTe Raines-Welch; youth minister Theodore Matthews; and current D209 board member Francine Harrell — wants to build on what it believes has been significant progress the district has made under Supt. Nettie Collins-Hart.

The 209 Together slate — comprising Theresa Kelly, the longest-serving member on, and former president of, the D209 board; Nathan Wagner, a psychology and human services administrator; and Claudia Medina, a school board advisor, teacher and administrator— wants to initiate bottom-up reform of a district they say is broken and in need of substantial repair.

Below is a rundown of areas both slates addressed during the interview process. Although all three 209 Together candidates were available for questions, only Raines-Welch appeared for the interview from the Children First slate.

Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart’s performance

Children First: In her questionnaire, Harrell wrote that she is in full support of Dr. Hart. During the interview, Raines-Welch said, “I have seen the progress the schools have made under her direction” and that “at the end of the day, facts don’t lie.”

She cited higher test scores across district schools, and Hart’s implementation of joint board meetings between D209 and its elementary feeder districts, as evidence of progress.

209 Together: Wagner said that if he and his running-mates were elected, they would raise their expectation of Hart’s performance.

“A good example,” he said. “One of her jobs is to communicate and do public relations in the community. I don’t see her doing that,” he said.

 Proviso Math and Science Academy

Children First: Raines-Welch said that the school has been a success based on its high ranking among other high schools in the state and the performance of its student population on standardized tests.

As to its effect on Proviso East and Proviso West, she said, “I don’t think the other sister schools suffer by having three schools.”

209 Together: Wagner and Kelly addressed PMSA’s underutilization, noting that, although the school only has about 821 students, it is built for 1,200 kids. The slate feels that PMSA has diverted resources away from its sister schools.

District 209’s relationship with its feeder districts

Children First: Raines-Welch said that the relationship between D209 and its feeder districts “needs to be one of cooperation.”

She noted that Collins-Hart has instituted joint board meetings between the districts, in which officials from the high schools and elementary schools visit each other’s meetings.

209 Together: Kelly said that there had once been an articulation committee set up to act as a liaison between District 209 and its feeder districts.

However, “no one has done that job for years,” she said. “I was [once] assigned to that committee and [a month later] it was pulled.”

Kelly also noted that the district has initiated annual articulation summits — which are conferences that allow D209 officials to intermingle and bounce ideas off of officials from its feeder districts.

One year, however, District 89 had no representation. Wagner said that the feeder districts or “not accountable to 209 or to each other.”

D209’s financial condition

Children First: Raines-Welch said that the district has made some positive budgetary changes within the last 10 years that have led to better fiscal management and balanced budgets.

209 Together: Wagner said that “there’s a lot of money that can be created just by spending it properly.”

Medina noted that while the district has made progress with the Financial Oversight Panel (FOP) in place, the fact that the FOP is getting ready to leave in 2016 “terrifies us.”

“We had a $76 million reserve and it’s all gone with nothing to show for it,” she said.

The general state of District 209 high schools

Children First: Raines-Welch said that her party is focused on emphasizing the positive developments that have occurred in the district.

“We’re vested in this community, we’re from this community [and] we’re proud of our school district. It’s not perfect, but point me to a school district that is,” she said. “We have to accept our students for where they are. … Our slate is running on the positive achievements the district has made. … You can’t go into elected office with such a negative mentality.”

Raines-Welch said when her two young children get old enough, they’ll be going to Proviso West. She and her husband, former Proviso District 209 board President and current state Rep. Emmanuel “Chris” Welch (D-7th) live in Hillside.

209 Together: Kelly said that D209 schools are at the worst level she’s seen during her time on the board and that parents don’t feel welcome when they go into the schools.

“My son walked into [Proviso East] with me while I was taking a tour, and he was scared,” said Medina, adding that she hasn’t encountered a parent who looks forward to sending his or her child to Proviso East.

Members of the slate pointed to a lack of resources such as textbooks, low teacher morale, political hiring and an intimidating atmosphere that prevents many willing parents from volunteering at the school as reasons for their pessimism.

Both Wagner and Medina said that they would not send their own children to Proviso East in the state that it’s in. Medina said that, if her son tested into PMSA, she would consider allowing him to attend.

On candidates’ perceived weaknesses

Children First: Raines-Welch was asked if her being married to the former D209 board president would have any bearing on her decision-making on the board.

Raines-Welch said that it’s unfair and tacitly sexist to make the inquiry, since it assumes that she can’t decide independently of her husband.

She said she doesn’t often encounter the question on the campaign — only among “the naysayers.”

209 Together: Medina was asked whether or not her deep emotional ties to the schools situation would impair her ability to govern relatively impartially as a school board member:

Medina conceded that she is very passionate about the issue, but that it would only inform her skill set and knowledge base she would bring to the board.

The party also noted that empathy toward students was lacking at the board level and that it would bring more of it when making board decisions. VFP

THE VILLAGE FREE PRESS IS MAYWOOD’S BEST SOURCE FOR LOCAL, BREAKING, INFORMATIVE NEWS. GET IT HERE FIRST.

Facebook Like

District 209 Candidates Putting ‘Children First’

Children FirstFrancine Harrell, Theodore Matthews and ShawTe M. Raines-Welch (courtesy Facebook).

Tuesday, December 6, 2015 || Originally Published by Forest Park Review || Nicholas Samuel, Contributing Reporter

Matthews, Harrell and Raines-Welch want to solve problems instead of complaining, candidates say

Three candidates calling themselves The Children First Party have big plans for Proviso Township High School District 209 if they are elected board members for the April 7, 2015 election.

Theodore “Teddy” Matthews, Francine Harrell and ShawnTe M. Raines-Welch, who are running as a slate, say they’re dedicated to putting the youth first and solving the issues in D209 instead of complaining.

Theodore “Teddy Matthews

Matthews, youth minister at the Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood, decided to run because of his passion for the students. 

“The reality of it is our students need advocates,” Matthews said. “They’re suffering from a multitude of issues and they need us. They haven’t been afforded some of the opportunities even my generation was provided with.”

Matthews wants to see a continued push to support the district’s local grade schools that feed into high schools. He also wants to see updated technology within D209 that promotes 21st century learning.

“Earlier this year there was an issue with students [not] having books in some of the schools. Students and parents need to have continued access to those types of things. We need shared accountability,” Matthews said.

If elected, Matthews plans to collaborate with local churches, community organizations and state legislators to help implement these changes to D209.

“The district can’t do it alone,” said Matthews, a life-long Maywood resident. “I’m a huge advocate for connecting the community to the district as a whole.”

Aside from ministering to youth at the Rock of Ages Church, Matthews is also the founder of The Empowerment Academy, a nonprofit that focuses on youth empowerment, job readiness, promoting activism, college preparation and mental learning through sports activities.

Matthews is also one of the founding members of Parent University hosted by the Strengthening Proviso College and Career Readiness Committee.

Matthews, a newlywed, is married to Jeri Matthews. He is currently furthering his education at Concordia University of Chicago in River Forest.

Incumbent Francine Harrell

Harrell, an incumbent for D209, said the district has the best superintendent [Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart] in the world and that she thinks test scores and the graduation rate will continue to rise.

She said the district has more Advanced Placement classes now compared to previous years and that she wants to see more barber and beauty school classes.

“Lots of children don’t want to go to college, but if they’re offered a trade maybe they’ll want to do that. Barbers make a lot of money,” Harrell said. “We want them to go to college and at least be ready for the workforce.”

Harrell, a retired human resources associate for ComEd, said she would like to see nursing programs brought into D209 schools.

If elected, Harrell would be serving her second term as school board member for D209. The incumbent has lived in Broadview for nearly 25 years and has been married to her husband Jerry for 49 years.

She has four adult children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

One of her adult children graduated from Proviso West High School, five of her grandchildren graduated from Proviso East High School and two currently attend East. Two of her great-grandchildren currently attend Lindop Elementary School.

ShawnTe M. Raines-Welch

ShawnTe M. Raines-Welch, lawyer for Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman LLP law firm specializing in representing schools and municipalities, wants more accountability to be held with administration and parents in D209. She is the wife of  7th District State Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who served 10 years as D209 school board president. 

She said the district needs forward thinking individuals.

“Sometimes when you’ve been in a position for a long time you get complacent and lose sight of what your future could be,” Raines-Welch said. “As an educator, the question should be what can I do now to prepare my students for the future?”

Raines-Welch, a nearly lifelong resident of Hillside, said students in D209 aren’t learning traditional values such as having a dual parent household.

“I think that piece is missing. It wasn’t missing when I attended Proviso West High School,” she said. “We had home economics and woodshop classes.”

The Hillside resident also wants to see a technology acquisition program implemented in district schools so students can have the technology they need for school such as tablets.

“Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy [PMSA] has state of the art computer labs where they’re learning robotics. I would like to see that in Proviso East and West High Schools,” Welch said.

Welch has been married for four years and has two children. She is also a commissioner on the Proviso Township Mental Health Commission and a former board member of the Answer, Inc.

Other candidates running for D209 board are Forest Parkers Claudia Medina and Nathan “Ned” Wagner, and Incumbent Theresa Kelly, of Maywood. Candidate hopeful Cheryl Anderson, of Melrose Park, faces a nominating paperwork challenge hearing Jan. 7 at the Cook County Electoral Board. VFP

District 209 Board Race Shaping Up to be a Battle of Opposing Visions

209 togetherthe children first party

Monday, December 29, 2014 || By Michael Romain

The race to fill the three vacancies on the District 209 Board of Education may turn out to be among the most interesting local races in next year’s election. That race features two strong slates and one relatively unknown candidate from Melrose Park–Cheryl Anderson.

Next year’s school board election may be among the first to feature serious candidates from Forest Park. This year, Maywood’s eastern neighbor, well-known for its deep frustration with District 209 high schools, launched a loose organization of residents and stakeholders from throughout Proviso Township known as “209 Together”. The group has met in Forest Park several times, started a Facebook group that has about239 members and has even turned up at school board meetings to voice their concerns.

The group is animated by its anger over a school district that many say has been the source of broken relationships. A common experience among Forest Parkers, by many accounts, is the long, hard goodbye from one neighbor or friend or relative to the next once children hit high school age and parents must decide between moving to a place with better schools or enduring the infamous ‘double taxation’ of private school expenses.

Recognizing that any hope of separating itself from District 209 may prove ultimately futile, the Forest Park residents involved in “209 Together” decided to channel their anger and discontent into activism, linking arms with allies across borders in the process. That cross-border mobilization has resulted in a slate that features Forest Park residents — Claudia Medina and Nathan “Ned” Wagner — and 209’s longest-serving board member, Maywood resident Theresa Kelly.

They’ll all be pitted against what many among “209 Together” believe to be the source of much of their frustration, or at least a potent symbol–the growing reach of former 209 Board President turned State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-7th).  Welch, who was a driving force behind much of what happened during his more than ten years as board member and/or president between 2001 and 2013, is still, according to sources, a very active presence in the board’s administration.

Welch is throwing his tremendous influence behind a slate that features sitting District 209 board member Francine Harrell, who was elected to the board in 2011; his wife, municipal lawyer ShawnTe M. Raines-Welch; and Rock of Ages youth minister Theodore Matthews. The move by Welch to back his own slate is either a measure taken to secure the progress the district has made since the beginning of the new millennium or a power move to solidify control, depending on the perspective.

Supporters of the slate, which is called “The Children First Party,” say that it features candidates with backgrounds strong enough to stand on their own merits, regardless of the politics involved. In addition, Welch has recently been rather vocal in touting some of the district’s achievements this past year, which include PMSA’s ranking among top high schools in the country by Newsweek magazine. VFP

Below is a listing of candidates running for some of the local elementary school districts in the Proviso Township area. For a complete listing of suburban school candidates in Cook County, click here:

Bellwood District 88

Bellwood D88

Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89

 Bellwood 88

Lindop District 92 || Westchester District 92 1/2 || Hillside District 93

Lindop92_West921-2_Hillside93

Candidates for D209 School Board Emerge

District 209 Together CandidatesMonday, December 15, 2014 || Originally Published: 12/9/14 by Forest Park Review || Jean Lotus, Editor

Theresa Kelly joins forces with Forest Parkers Claudia Medina and Nathan Wagner

About 70 people from across Proviso Township packed the upper floor of Brian Boru Irish Pub in Forest Park, Dec. 2, to kick off the “209 Together” school board campaigns of Claudia Medina and Nathan ‘Ned’ Wagner.

Since that meeting, Theresa Kelly, long-serving board member of Proviso Township High School District 209, agreed to campaign with the two Forest Park parents. The three have also formed a committee, Citizens for Kelly, Medina and Wagner.

Kelly said the campaign’s momentum impressed her. Using language coined by Chicago’s Rev. Jesse Jackson during his 1984 presidential campaign, she said: “We have a Rainbow Coalition working together for all the children. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for when you have a team that cares about kids and school and the community.”

Medina, a native of Bogota, Colombia, said voices in the district were not being heard.

“There should be a Latino voice on the board and Forest Park representation,” she said. “Our children are feeding into a failing school district. We want a say in how we’re educating our children. We are part of that community whether they like it or not. Our voice is a proactive voice for all children. They all deserve dignity and excellence. That is the responsibility of a public education: Everybody’s child comes first.”

Wagner said he appreciated the perspectives of Kelly and board member Kevin McDermott of Westchester, who is not running for reelection.

“Meshing of our different perspectives is proving to be inspirational to us and the people we meet,” Wagner said. “We haven’t reached everyone in the township yet, but we can feel the energy growing with each conversation.”

Right now the group communicates largely through Facebook, but a 209together.com website is taking volunteer names.

Three more D209 candidates vie for open slots

Francine Harrell Shawnte Raines Theodore Matthews

Three positions on the D209 board are up for this election. Readith Ester will not seek a second term because she is running for Maywood trustee.

Other D209 hopefuls who have been circulating petitions are ShawnTe Raines-Welch of Hillside, wife of former D209 president Chris Welch, now 7th District state rep.

Welch has been circulating petitions for Raines-Welch, incumbent Francine Harrell and Rev. Teddy Matthews, junior minister of Rock of Ages Church in Maywood. VFP

 

Two Forest Parkers to Run for Proviso D209 Board

Screenshot 2014-11-25 at 11.14.28 AMForest Parkers Claudia Medina and Nathan “Ned” Wagner announced they will run for Proviso Township High School District 209 school board in the April, 2015 election. Caption by Forest Park Review.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 || Originally Published: Monday, November 24, 2014 by the Forest Park Review || Jean Lotus, Editor

Two Forest Park residents have thrown their hat into the ring in the April 7, 2015 election for the Proviso Township High School District 209 Board of Education. Three spots are up on the board, with one incumbent deciding not to run.

The candidates are Forest Park Spanish teacher Claudia Medina, and Nathan “Ned” Wagner. Both are parents with children in District 91 schools.

Medina taught for 24 years and runs a Montessori teacher training and consulting business. She designed and runs the Spanish foreign language program for the D91 school district. Wagner supervises an Alzheimer and dementia program at Belmont Village Senior Center in Oak Park.

Monday, Medina posted a quote in Spanish on her Facebook page: “Quien mueve montañas empezó apartando piedrecitas.” (He who moves mountains started by moving little pebbles.)

“I am disheartened by the public high school options available to the children in our district” Medina said. “They are not safe. They are failing academically. The community culture says ‘I give up.’ But I have not. I will not. And I feel obligated to do something about it.”

In a written statement, she added, “The current leadership for the past 12 years has allowed the school(s) to fall into miserable physical and academic conditions. It is well reported that this current leadership runs this district as if it were a family business.

“As a community of people together – 209 Together – we demand change,” she added. “We will be the change. We will all have a voice in the district to create action.”

Ned Wagner said growing up in Park Forest he never even considered that the public high school could not be an option.

“Going to high school wasn’t an issue. Parents didn’t shop for private schools and check the value of their house so they could sell and move into a nicer high school district,” he said. “Every Proviso student should have a safe, academically sound option for high school. It shouldn’t be a crisis. It’s absurd that [the district] is a crisis and I can’t sit here and do nothing.”

The two candidates are both part of a group called “209 Together,” which held an informal meeting, Nov. 2, in Forest Park at the Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor. Roughly 20 Forest Park parents agreed to reach out to all D209 parents to try to find solutions to academic and safety issues at the high schools. The group has a Facebook page called ‘Proviso District 209 Together.’

Brown Cow owner Connie Brown said she was thrilled that “two amazing people have stepped up to take on a huge commitment to better all of our communities for all of us.”

The group will meet again on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at Brian Boru Irish Pub (formerly Molly Malone’s), 7652 Madison St., Forest Park at 7 p.m. A Facebook event has been posted.

Members are reaching out to parents from other feeder communities: Maywood, Bellwood, Berkeley, Broadview, Melrose Park, Westchester, Hillside, Northlake and Stone Park.

Incumbent D209 board member Theresa Kelly confirmed Monday she will be running again. Board member Readith Ester told the Review Monday she will not run, and will be campaigning for the office of Maywood village trustee instead.

Incumbent board Secretary Francine Harrell did not immediately return phone calls Monday regarding her plans. However, her name has appeared on candidate petitions.

Seventh District state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who served as D209 board president for 12 years, was circulating petitions in Melrose Park recently with Harrell’s name. The petitions also had the names of ShawnTe Raines (Welch’s wife) and Rev. Teddy Matthews, youth minister at Rock of Ages Church in Maywood. VFP

Contact:
Email: jlotus@forestparkreview.com Twitter: @FP_Review