Tag: Ned Wagner

D209 Creates Parent Coordinator Positions

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 || By Thomas Vogel/Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews

The Proviso District 209 Board of Education approved the hiring of two new “parent coordinator” positions, at its June 13 meeting.

Eva Kardaras and Delinda Hyde, (pictured left to right in feature photo), each with a one-year contract for $46,000, started work July 15. The pair is tasked with running the district’s two new parent centers — information clearinghouses and community-resource hubs — meant to further the district’s goal of building relationships with outside partners and Proviso residents.

Continue reading “D209 Creates Parent Coordinator Positions”

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D209 Re-ups with Food Service Contractor Despite Frustrations

Aramark food.jpgFriday, July 14, 2017 || By Thomas Vogel/Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews

The Proviso District 209 Board of Education approved a new one-year roughly $1.1 million contract with Aramark Education Services for the upcoming school year, despite strong criticism from school officials and board members at its July 11 board meeting.

Aramark has provided food services to District 209 for the past seven school years but recently there has been a significant dip in student participation and anecdotal complaints from both students and board members about the quality of food. But, given the bidding process timeline, including complying with Illinois state law, and the new 2017-2018 school year starting in about a month, the board needed to move forward with finding a food vendor and voted to approve the contract.

“I have zero confidence in this company,” Dr. Patrick Hardy, Proviso East’s principal, said of Aramark. “I want to say that I am sad that they’re here. This is one of the most frustrating moments I’ve had in my time here. ”

District 209 began the process of finding a new food service provider in March in an effort to see greater student participation along with expanded food options, including heathier meals, according to documents in its March 14 meeting packet. The Illinois State Board of Education must approve food service contracts to ensure compliance with federal and state lunch program guidelines.

Four companies responded to a bid request in May, with Aramark submitting the lowest quote by about $8,000. Illinois state law requires school district’s to award contracts worth more than $25,000 to the lowest bidder.

Board President Theresa Kelly and Board Member Samuel Valtierrez, whose kids are students in the district, abstained from the vote.

Board members and school officials, including District 209 Supt. Dr. Jesse Rodriguez and Hardy, criticized Aramark’s past performance at the meeting and cautioned company representatives present at the meeting that while the business relationship would continue, it was imperative the district see significant improvements to their level of service.

“The best predictor of future performance is past performance…If I was to bet on this, I am going to bet it’s not going to happen,” Rodríguez said. “It won’t happen because the past performance shows that you have a bad track record. Let’s fix that.”

Aramark reps said there has been management changes at the company and that they were willing to work toward satisfying the board.

“In any district, students are likely to have complaints with something about the food,” an Aramark spokesperson at the July 11 meeting said. “But we know that we are here to serve the students and make sure they’re nourished because we know and believe that their nourishment is very closely tied to their academic success.”

Kelly requested twice weekly updates from school principals and Rodríguez said the district would have audits throughout the year to keep taps on the food service.

Board Member Ned Wagner said he’s heard students reporting “abysmal, horrible food” from Aramark.

“We were very sad to see the level of service that we were seeing last year from Aramark,” Rodriguez said. “It was quite embarrassing for me as the superintendent to see those students and the quality of service they were getting.”

Hardy added he’s seen Aramark serve spoiled milk and bread and burnt pizza and has the photographic evidence. He also told Aramark representatives his students merit a better level of service.

In a July 13 email to the Review, Hardy declined to share the photos.

“I have zero confidence in what Aramark will do for my students. I will say this publicly because it’s how I feel. I only see one difference between my students and the students they serve well and they better figure out how to serve race and poverty because I’m not gonna tolerate it and I’m not gonna fall on my sword for Aramark,” Hardy said, to loud applause from audience members. “If they serve other students well, they better figure out how to serve my students because they deserve it too.”

The reported decrease in student participation, according the March board documents, was about 50 percent. This drop occurred “even though there is no cost for breakfast and/or lunch” for students. District 209, in 2015, began participating in the federal Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) which reimburses school districts in low-income areas for meal costs, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s website.

“Our students deserve better,” Kelly said of the current quality of food service. VFP

Photo above: Aramark 

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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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Candidates Begin Filing for Proviso, D89 School Board Races

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || By Jackie Glosniak

With the Cook County Clerk’s Office accepting applications for prospective candidates for the April 4 school board elections through Dec. 19, eight people on Monday officially threw their hats into the ring for seats on the Proviso Township High Schools  District 209 Board of Education.

With several days left for election petitions, the two sides representing personal and operational difference on the existing board already have clear candidates for next spring’s election.

As of Dec. 13, the following District 209 candidates (barring petition challenges) are signed up to run for election for a full, 4-year school board term (in alphabetical order):

  •  Daniel Adams (incumbent)
  •  Rodney Alexander
  •  Brian Cross (incumbent)
  •  Amanda Grant
  •  Teresa McKelvy (incumbent)
  •  Arbdella “Della” Patterson
  •  Samuel Valtierrez
  •  Jacqueline Walton

The current board members with Forest Park ties, Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and Theresa Kelly are not up for re-election until April 2019, but they will be backing four new individuals in alignment with their 209 Together coalition to bring change for all Proviso students, with the goal of ridding what they consider excessive political influence on the D209 school board.

According to Medina, candidates and political newcomers Rodney Alexander, Amanda Grant, Della Patterson and Samuel Valtierrez are planning to campaign with her slate’s same message of grassroots change.

Medina says the four candidates, who have either had children in the district or are planning on sending their children to Proviso schools within the next few years, are pleased with her slate’s work toward enacting positive changes district-wide.

“In a year and a half, it is unfathomable that we have been able to drive [this] much change,” she said. “These are parents and engaged community members who are thrilled with what has been happening with Proviso and want to continue driving all of the reforms, platforms, transformations, curriculum and direction for the district that has been brought about ever since we got elected.”

Wagner said that, over all, he has been pleased with his experience on the school board and, like Medina, is glad to see fresh faces set on campaigning on behalf of the community and in alignment with 209 Together’s goals.

“The true work of being on the board of education is a wonderful experience,” Wagner said. “One of the things that has been really amazing about being on the board is that we’re out in the community, we’re meeting people, and then people see change is really possible and actually happening. There’s a transformation in our school district going on.”

However, Wagner reiterated that, while he and his former campaign partners continue to work together with community outreach and frequently voting opposite the current board majority, 209 Together is not an entity separate from the district.

“I want to make clear that we’re not a political party,” he said.

Medina has high hopes for Alexander, Grant, Patterson and Valtierrez, saying they have been closely following 209 Together’s mission to strive for district excellence and would be great assets to the district.

“These are all people who know what’s going on, have been following us for a few years and want to come on board to continue driving transformation for Proviso because it will change the greater community,” she said.

Aside from Adams, Cross and McKelvy, board member Kevin McDermott is also up for re-election in April. However, as of press time, he has not submitted petitions to campaign to keep his seat.

Adams, Cross, McKelvy and McDermott did not respond to the Forest Park Review’s requests for comment.

Three have filed for District 89 school board 

Three candidates have filed to run for the three open seats on the District 89 school board.

They include incumbents Regina Rivers and Veronica Bonilla-Lopez, and challenger Sally Alondra Casillas.

To keep up with candidate filings, visit the Cook County Clerk’s site here. VFP

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D209 Approves New PMSA Entrance Guidelines

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || By Jackie Glosniak 

To alleviate the headaches involved in applying to the Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA), the District 209 Board of Education presented a plan for new admission and entrance guidelines for applicants to PMSA beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year.

Earlier this summer, the board created a PMSA Admission Advisory Committee, consisting of board members, parents, community stakeholders and district administrators to examine the entire process — everything from what exam is administered to how and when the school would alert parents about the status of their child’s application.

Board member Claudia Medina was one of the members of the committee who said, based on negative community feedback about PMSA’s application process, that the formation of new guidelines was necessary.

“What we tried to do was open the conversation of the challenges that students and families in the district have had with the entrance exam for PMSA,” Medina said. “We were trying to see and revise the criteria use for entrance exams.”

For the past few years, PMSA was using the Explore exam to test prospective students and incorporate student scores as a large percentage of their admission ranking. But the Explore exam was created to test how ninth-graders nationwide would perform on the ACT, and the ACT exam was scrapped this spring by the state in favor of the SAT exam for high school juniors. Therefore, the committee felt using an outdated exam would not be a good measure for predicting academic performance among future students.

Medina said PMSA Principal Bessie Karvelas chose the PSAT as the new entrance exam for prospective students to better reflect a true measure of academic performance aligned with the new state-mandated SAT.

Another change the committee made was updating the timeline for the district to alert parents about whether their children had been selected for admission into PMSA.

Previously, the district found many parents had issues with turnaround times between when they were hearing from PMSA and when they had to make alternative high school entrance decisions, including having their children attend either Proviso East or West, attend a private school or even move out of the district if none of those options were desirable.

Medina said many parents became angry when they did not receive a decision from PMSA in a timely enough manner. In order to avoid waiting until the last minute to decide where their children were going, many would move out of district before hearing from PMSA or spend hundreds of dollars on applications and deposits for private schools, money and decisions that could not be changed or refunded.

“People had to put these expensive deposits down and gamble whether or not they would actually be entering PMSA,” Medina said. “We changed the date so that it coincides prior to being required to pay deposits for private schools. That saves parents money.

“We worked to find a better formula to communicate, execute and improve the way in which PMSA entrance examinations were handled,” she added.

Board member Ned Wagner agreed with Medina that the time was right to establish better, more consistent guidelines for PMSA entrance.

“What had been happening over the last few years was the criteria was sort of different than the year before,” Wagner said. “We wanted to have the same district and entrance requirements every year and wanted a more transparent process.”

For next year, Medina said, the district is also looking at better ways to promote PMSA entrance to area students, including updated advertisements, newspaper postings and meetings with feeder elementary school districts. VFP

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D209 Board Members Ask FOP To Weigh In On Contract Case

ProvisoEastTuesday, May 17, 2016 || Originally Published: The Forest Park Review || By Matthew Hendrickson

Several Proviso School District 209 board members have targeted board Vice President Dan Adams over a contract agreement he approved in 2014, which they say happened without approval from the board.

Members Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and Theresa Kelly wrote the district’s state appointed Financial Oversight Panel, May 10, asking for their assistance in drafting a plan for the district that would prevent a board president from entering into such agreements in the future without board approval. Additionally, the letter asks the FOP to consider removing Adams from the school board.

Wagner stopped short of agreeing that the letter explicitly called for Adam’s removal. He and other board members want advice on what sort of consequences the FOP would recommend for Adams under the circumstances, he said.

Adams, who was the board’s president in 2014, approved a contract signed by Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart on May 22, 2014 to hire Restore Construction to renovate 10 rooms at Proviso East High School after they were damaged by an electrical fire on May 10, 2014.

The contract was not voted on by the school board for approval.

Adams said Monday he approved the no-bid contract with Restore as an emergency measure to get the work done before the school reopened for the 2014-2015 school year.

“Nothing was done maliciously,” Adams said. “Our main concern was to get the school open by September.”

Adams also approved an amended agreement with Restore Construction nine weeks later on Aug. 12, 2014, which agreed that the district would pay the company for any work not covered by the district’s insurance provider, as well as any attorney fees Restore might incur if they brought the district to court over payment. It also gave Restore Construction power of attorney to approve documents without board approval.

In their letter to the FOP, the three board members claim that by approving the amended agreement without the board’s consent, Adams violated his oath of office as president. Additionally, they wrote, the agreement Adams signed opened the district up to more than $1.8 million in liability plus interest that may not be covered by the district’s insurer, as well as legal fees.

Adams said he does not recall approving the amended agreement.

“Sometimes it’s late and you’re just signing things because you want to go home,” he said, adding that all members of the board are equally to blame, as well as district staff, for the terms of the amended agreement.

“You expect the people that work for you to do their job and look these over,” he said.

Adams said he could not remember if he asked anyone in the district, including the district’s attorneys, to review the document before he signed it. He said he asked the district’s current counsel if the agreement had been reviewed and was told it wasn’t.

“I think there is plenty of blame to go around for everyone,” he said.

He believed other board members were aware of the contract and agreement at the time it was approved although it was not on the board’s agenda that night.

The district’s insurer, Travelers Indemnity Company, claimed Restore’s original estimate for the work was $4.2 million. A memo written by Travelers’ attorney in June last year claimed they paid out more than $5.5 million to Restore for the work before it was stopped when renovations were still not completed a year after the fire.

Further, Travelers claimed that Restore could only provide documentation for a third of the money they said they were owed.

The attorney wrote: “Given that Restore has failed to provide documentation … we can only conclude that Restore has willfully withheld documentation and purposefully misled Travelers.”

Restore sued District 209 in October last year for breach of contract and claimed they were owed more than $7.2 million for the job. Because of the amended agreement, Restore claimed the district was required to pay $1.8 million for the difference, as well as interest and attorney’s fees.

The district filed a motion to dismiss the suit in January, claiming the board never voted to approve the agreement. Because the board never voted, the district claims the contract is null and void.

Adams said that because he could not recall approving the amended agreement, he could not remember why the amended agreement was brought to him in the first place.

“How did that contract get in front of him?” Wagner asked. “Amending [the contract] in August is no longer an emergency. Why was this not brought before the board? Why was it not reviewed? It’s beyond fishy.”

The Cook County Chronicle reported that Restore Construction donated more than $10,000 to former Proviso Board President Chris Welch and gave $16,000 over 11 years to Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico.

Adams is employed by the village of Melrose Park and was appointed to the president’s seat in 2013 when Welch stepped down to become state representative for Illinois 7th District.

Adams denied that political pressure contributed to his approval of the contract and the subsequent amended agreement with Restore.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Adams said. “I had no clue who Restore Construction was.”

Adams said the letter sent to the FOP was a “political stunt” and added that he has a low opinion of the board members who signed it.

“Honestly, I think they’re a bunch of morons, so I don’t care what they do,” he said, adding that the letter is retribution for his vote at a May 6 special board meeting where Adams, Brian Cross, Teresa McKelvy and Kevin McDermott voted to change a board policy that reduced the president’s term from two years to one year. The board then voted to hold a board election where McKelvy was named president and Adams was named vice president.

The move was harshly criticized by Kelly, Medina and Wagner, as well as members of the public, as a blatant political move to remove Kelly and Medina as the board’s president and vice president midway through their terms without giving justification.

Wagner said the letter to the FOP had nothing to do with Adams’ votes that led to unseating Kelly. In fact, he said, he and Medina have been asking questions about how a multimillion-dollar, no-bid contract could ever have been approved without a board vote, much less how that contract was amended with such unfavorable terms. Medina and Wagner were elected to the board in 2015.

“The public needs to know about this,” Wagner said. “Our school district has a horrible reputation in the community for looking corrupt. When you look at something like this, it gives the impression that it was done on purpose.”

Wagner and Medina attended the FOP’s April 26 meeting to request their guidance on the lawsuit and asked for a joint FOP and board of education meeting within a week to discuss it. When no joint meeting was scheduled two weeks later, Wagner said the letter was drafted to show the FOP they were serious.

“Where was the FOP when this contract was signed?” Wagner said. “Where were they when the amended agreement was approved? They’re supposed to be overseeing us and we want oversight on this.” VFP