Tag: Oscar Hawthorne

Proviso West Gets New ‘Turnaround Principal’

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Nia Abdullah, who was recently hired to replace Oscar Hawthorne as principal of Proviso West High School. | Bowen HS Alumni Association 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 7/15/17

During a June 13 regular meeting, the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board unanimously approved the hiring of Nia Abdullah as the principal at Proviso West High School in Hillside.  Abdullah will replace the school’s outgoing principal, Oscar Hawthorne, starting June 19. Her starting salary is $156,960.

Abullah is currently the principal of Bowen High School, a 4-year public school within the Chicago Public Schools system.

Abdullah is a 1998 graduate of Howard, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also has a Doctor of Education in Urban Education Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education.

Abdullah has been in education for 11 years. She started her career in 2006 at Hyde Park High School in Chicago, where she was a math teacher, curriculum coordinator and math department chair. She was resident principal at John Hay Community Academy from 2010 until 2011, when she became assistant principal at Bowen High School. She was promoted to principal of the school in 2013.

According to a profile by UIC’s Center for Urban Education Leadership, Abdullah was featured in a 2014 symposium at the University of Chicago entitled, “Black Young Men in America: Rising above Social and Racial Prejudice, Trauma, and Educational Disparities.”

The UEL profile notes that Abdullah talked about the “challenges she faces at Bowen,” where she had crafted “a warm and inviting environment for African American males geared to push for excellence both academically and behaviorally.”

“We have to accept them as they are and be able to hold them accountable as well at the same time,” Abdullah said. “We need to know exactly what they need academically but support them regardless of how they come to us.”

Abdullah was listed as a “turnaround principal” on a June 2017 personnel report, which did not include the length of Abdullah’s contract. District 209 officials could not be immediately contacted for comment. VFP

This article has been updated to correct information about Abdullah’s professional background. 

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D209 to Host Focus Group for Proviso West Principal Search Today, April 6, 6:30 PM

Proviso Township District 209Thursday, April 6, 2017 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

According to a statement released by District 209, the district “invites students, parents, elected officials, and community members to participate in the search process for a new Principal at Proviso West High School.

Current Proviso West Principal Oscar Hawthorne announced last year that he would retire at the end of this school year.

“The District has partnered with BWP & Associates to conduct the Principal search for Proviso West High School. We ask that you join the focus group on April 6, to share with us the qualities and characteristics that you seek in the new educational leader for PTHS D209.

“The District has partnered with BWP & Associates to conduct the Principal search for Proviso West High School. We ask that you join the focus group on April 6, to share with us the qualities and characteristics that you seek in the new educational leader for PTHS D209.”

The district also asks community members to complete a survey relating to the principal search by April 10. You can access the survey by clicking here.

The focus group will take place Thursday, April 6, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Proviso West High School, 4701 Harrison St. in Hillside. VFP

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Proviso West Principal Announces Resignation, Search to Begin Soon

Oscar Hawthorne.jpgTuesday, March 7, 2017 || By Thomas Vogel for Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews

Proviso School District 209 will begin searching for Proviso West High School’s next principal in the coming days and intends to have a candidate ready for final Board of Education approval by May or June.

Oscar Hawthorne, West’s current principal, announced his resignation in January. The search is the latest example of leadership turnover at Proviso. D209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez began his tenure as superintendent just eight months ago, in July 2016, and finding a new Proviso West principal will be one of his most significant hires to date.

“We are looking for a turnaround principal for Proviso West,” Rodriguez said March 3. “We are looking for someone who can produce results. This is a very, very important position.”

D209 will partner with BWP & Associates, a Libertyville-based search firm and the agreement pays BWP about $11,000, according to Rodriguez, who noted that any candidate must receive final approval from the D209 Board of Education in a straight-up majority vote. Community members, school staff and students will be involved in the process, which will include several rounds of interviews. It is also likely to be an outside hire, although district employees can apply for the job, Rodriguez said.

The district is targeting someone with at least four years of experience as a high-school principal and someone with a “proven track record of improving student achievement.” Leadership skills and an emphasis on leveraging data-driven strategies is important, too, Rodriguez said.

Currently, he added, about 40 people have applied but he expects the list to balloon to around 75. BWP will whittle that number down to about a dozen. From there, the hiring committee, which includes Rodriguez, school staff and human resources employees, will conduct more interviews and present a handful of candidates to the board.

“We need folks who are driven. We need folks who are committed,” Rodriguez said. “Many, many people will be intimidated by the work that needs to be done.”

Indeed, there is plenty of room for academic improvement at Proviso West. The 2016 four-year graduation rate was 78 percent and just 56 percent of the school’s roughly 2,000 students enroll at a university or college after graduation. Both percentages are below the Illinois state average. About two-thirds of students did not meet Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test benchmarks either, according to the Illinois Report Card, the state’s official source.

Hawthorne, who served as principal for four years, was not available for comment. But in a bi-monthly newsletter to parents, he wrote, “It is with deep appreciation that I have had the honor of serving as principal” and mentioned he would be moving on to “other interests.”

In Hawthorne’s first year as principal in 2013, Proviso West’s four-year graduation rate was 77 percent. The 2016 rate was 78 percent. Since 2014, the percentage of freshmen on track to graduate has more than doubled from 25 percent to 62 percent.

Hawthorne is the school’s third principal in the last six years. His salary in 2015-2016 was $160,783, according to district records.

The April 4 school board election will not affect the search process, Rodriguez said. By the time the board is asked to vote on the potential hires, the election will have taken place.

The D209 board approved the hiring of another top administrator, Dr. Nicole Howard, as assistant superintendent for Academics and Student and Family Services, at its Jan. 10 meeting. She will be paid $156,960 annually.

Rodriguez sees parallels to the current principal search and his own hiring in July 2016 and said the role, like his own, will be difficult but also rewarding.

“I did recognize the opportunities and challenges of Proviso,” Rodriguez said of his decision to accept the district’s top job. “That’s what I want for the Proviso West principal. They are going to be working long hours.” VFP


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TOWNSHIP NEWS: Health Is More Than Physical–Rep. Welch’s Back to School Fair Caters to the Whole Child


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Tuesday, August 12, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

HILLSIDE — Hundreds cycled through the courtyard facing Wolf Road on the campus of Proviso West High School in Hillside Saturday for a back to school fair that featured more than just school supplies. Representatives from a range of social service organizations, such as Youth Outreach Services, The Answer, Inc., and the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services circulated educational literature.

While some youth waited to get their faces painted and younger children hopped and did somersaults in an inflatable bounce house erected in the courtyard’s grassy enclosure, others waited to receive free medical and dental exams within a mobile clinic parked outside of the school’s front entrance. The day was punctuated by a dynamic performance by the Proviso East Marching Band.

“We had over 70 people lined up for health exams in the first hour,” said the fair’s host, State Rep. Chris Welch (D-7th) (pictured left). He said that doctors and dentists from Westlake Hospital, Circle Family Health Care Network, PCC Community Wellness and the Children’s Clinic administered the exams. The fair lasted from 10 AM to about 3 PM.

“We wanted to provide overall wellness–from dental exams to STD tests,” said Rep. Welch. “We’re trying to do well-rounded care for kids of all ages before they go back to school.”

Verna Singletary, a volunteer for the fair and the parent of a former Proviso West student, said that the services focusing on students’ bodily needs are as vital as those catering to their academic progress.

“Our kids need vaccines,” she said. “They need good dental hygiene. All of this is important and its free.”

Sal Layne, a representative with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Metro Suburban, would add an emphasis on mental health to the comprehensive list of wellness attributes that were covered at the fair. He stressed the need for more people to understand the physiological nature of mental illness.

“There’s a lot of stigma associated with mental illness,” he said. “But it’s a medical illness. People want to push it aside, especially with the media projecting certain images.”

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Melinda Vazquez, a clinical crisis therapist for Presence Behavioral Health Pro Care, reinforced Layne’s point, noting that mental illness is often caused, or exacerbated, by young people’s social environments–which partly explained her presence in Proviso West’s courtyard.

“We get a lot of issues with self-harm and anger management,” she said. “There’s so much that we deal with that is connected to past trauma that is never resolved. A lot of issues are connected to poverty and economic conditions.”

Jennifer Nye works extensively with teenage victims of domestic violence and sexual assault at the nonprofit social service organization Pillars. Nye, who noted that she often treats students at Proviso West, said that a lot of her efforts are targeted at education and awareness.

“We try to help [our clients] find the signs of trauma early on and provide them with information about healthy relationships, so they can build their own healthy relationships from that,” she said.

Often, however, health crises are much more literal and immediate, which is why Sheri Williams, who directs community presence for the American Red Cross, stressed the importance of emergency training.

“I don’t think that there’s enough emergency awareness among young students,” she said. Williams said that she intends to try partnering with Rep. Welch to provide more certification courses in areas such as CPR and disaster preparedness to close that awareness gap.

Andy Martinez, a special projects and events coordinator with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), said that his agency has partnered with the American Red Cross on a variety of initiatives, such as drowning prevention.

“We lose way too many kids every year to drowning-related deaths,” Martinez said. “It only takes a couple of seconds for a child to drown.”

While the range of issues could have been somewhat overwhelming for the average parent or student or guardian, Proviso West Principal Oscar Hawthorne was careful to point out that the day was only the beginning in what he says will be an ongoing process of connecting students and parents to much-needed resources. At the health fair, he was in conversation with Sandra Harrison, the Executive Director of Youth Outreach Services.

“This is a great platform for kids to prepare and start thinking about going back to school,” said Harrison, whose consulting company, DVA Leadership and Development Training, will be administering conflict mediation training at Proviso West this upcoming school year.

“Proviso West is committed to connecting our students to resources during the school year and beyond,” he said. “The goal is to provide opportunities for students and staff so that we can continue to improve the social climate of our school.” VFP

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