Tag: Proviso Math and Science Academy

PMSA Families On Idea Of Moving School: ‘Drop It!’

Tuesday, May 28, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

The consensus at the fifth and final facilities master plan community engagement session — held May 15 at Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park — was loud, clear and expressed most stridently by Jose Espin, a PMSA parent.

Continue reading “PMSA Families On Idea Of Moving School: ‘Drop It!’”

6 Students Receive 209 Together Awards

Scholarship photo.jpgTuesday, July 25, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Ulyces Gutierrez (pictured), a recent Proviso Math and Science Academy graduate and Melrose Park resident, spent his time in high school waking up at 6 a.m. to head to school early before leaving to go straight to his job at Chipotle, where he would work until around 11 p.m. After, he’d go home, do his homework and go to sleep at around 2 a.m. Then, he’d wake up at 6 a.m to do it all over again.

“It was rinse and repeat,” he said in a recent phone interview. “My mom told me if work was too much I could just quit—it wasn’t like we were short on money. But I didn’t want to quit. I wanted to do something with my time.”

Gutierrez’s efforts have paid off in more ways than one. The 18-year-old is one of six graduates from Proviso Township High School District 209 who will each be presented with a $1,000 check during a 6:30 p.m. ceremony on Aug. 1 at the Howard H. Mohr Community Center in Forest Park. The scholarship is sponsored by the community group 209 Together and the Kiwanis Club Foundation of Forest Park.

“These talented and ambitious students have all been accepted to one or more 2- or 4-year colleges,” according to a statement released on July 20 by the scholarship committee.

The scholarship was established in 2015 as a “way to highlight the perseverance and academic excellence that is possible from graduates of Proviso East, Proviso West, and Proviso Math and Science Academy.”

Each student had to submit an essay along with general academic information in order to qualify for the scholarship. Peg Cecchi, one of the people who reviewed the applications, said she was “struck again and again by the desire and heart that these kids show.”

“They humbled me by sharing a slice of their lives and showing me that they have what it takes to be successful, not in spite of their challenges but because of their challenges, challenges that made them stronger.”

For Gutierrez, there was added incentive in overcoming the long hours and emotional drain of working nearly 40-hour weeks at Chipotle while putting in extra hours at school.

There were times when, he said, he would save up enough money to help his family with mortgage payments. But there is something much more satisfactory, he said. In the fall, when he enrolls as a freshman at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Gutierrez will be the first person in his family to attend college.

“Both of my parents emigrated from Mexico,” he said. “My mom dropped out of high school to work on a farm with my grandparents. My dad got his GED, but he never went off to college.”

Gutierrez said he now wants to be a model for his younger brother, a rising sophomore at PMSA.

“Since I’m the first one to go off to college, this is kind of a new thing for all of us,” the older Gutierrez said. “The $1,000 scholarship will be a big help.”

Members of Kiwanis Club and 209 Together praised the scholars for their sacrifices and their outsized roles in their respective communities.

“Kiwanis is proud of our award recipients as they set out to change the world for the better, one child and one community at a time,” said Gerald Lordan, the director of the Kiwanis Club Foundation of Forest Park.

“Our hope is to keep this going and each year add to the impact we have on the lives of kids form our very own communities,” said selection committee co-chair Michelle Woehrle. “We’d love to raise enough [money] to give additional support to past winners who are still in school.”

The scholarship committee started an online fundraiser to raise additional money for past winners. Those interested in giving money can visit: https://fundly.com/209together. VFP

The 2017 209 Together award recipients

Proviso East

  • Overcoming Adversity: Destiny Tartt
  • Persistence Pays: Kiana Walker

Proviso West

  • Overcoming Adversity: Precious Tonya
  • Persistence Pays: Diana Guzman


  • Overcoming Adversity: Ulyces Gutierrez
  • Persistence Pays: Aaliyah Henderson

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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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

A D V E R T I S E M E N T 

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PMSA Tops in Chicago Magazine Ranking of ‘Best Public High Schools’ in Suburban Cook County

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A screenshot of the September 2016 Chicago Magazine article, in which Proviso Math and Science Academy is listed as the top high school in suburban Cook County.  

Friday, August 19, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Proviso Math and Science Academy garnered the top spot in Chicago Magazine’s recent ranking of the top 20 high schools in suburban Cook County, beating out institutions like New Trier (ranked #2), Hinsdale Central (#4) and nearby Oak Park and River Forest High School (#14).

The rankings appear in the magazine’s September 2016 issue and are presented as that month’s cover story. You can browse through the article’s entirety below.

The publication listed PMSA’s 100 percent graduate rate over the last three years and the low per-pupil spending — at $7,661, it was the lowest level on the list of top high schools and more than $3,000 less than the high school with the second-lowest per-pupil spending. New Trier’s per-pupil funding level is nearly $14,000.

District 209 Superintendent Jesse J. Rodríguez said the news is “a great honor for our district,” before expressing appreciation to Chicago magazine for the recognition.

PMSA Principal Bessie Karvelas said she and her faculty are “elated” by the honor.

“To be ranked number one by Chicago Magazine is a dream come true. Our hard work and perseverance continues to be recognized. What a wonderful way to start the new year,” she said.

“I would like to publicly thank my teachers for allowing me to lead them.  They are leaders in their own right and I am honored and blessed to work with such a collaborative team of teacher leaders. Kudos to all my PMSA staff and to my wonderful assistant principal, Mr. Bill Breisch.”

This year, the authors of the rankings gave much less weight to standardized test scores and tried to take into account “hard-to-quantify factors for which test results can give only a vague indication, such as classroom environment, teacher-principal collaboration, and parent engagement.”

The nonprofit research firm RTI International calculated the rankings, which were based on Illinois State Board of Education data.

According to a statement D209 released on Aug. 19, the Chicago Magazine honor follows a spate of other recognitions and rankings for PMSA, including a Bronze ranking by U.S. News and World Report magazine in the 2014-15 school year. PMSA was one of fewer than 2,700 schools in the country to receive the recognition. VFP

You can read the entire Chicago Magazine article below:








A Maywoodian Inside the Ivy League: To Foreign Blacks I Was ‘Just Black’

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“Black Painting,” by Kerry James Marshall. The work, completed in 2003 and made of black acrylic paint on black fiberglass, depicts the ominous moments before the assassination of Maywood-born Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in his West Side apartment on Dec. 4, 1969. | Photo of art via Blanton Museum || Below: Marquan Jones by Marquan Jones 

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016 || By Marquan Jones || OPINION 

Having completed the pre-freshman summer program at Cornell University, I have become well acquainted with the campus, faculty and the workload. I’ve also realized how much I am not acquainted with myself.

When talking to my future classmates about identity and our origins, they were quick to reply: “I’m from Ghana!” “I’m from Nigeria!” “I’m from the Caribbean!”

When it was my turn to speak, an unfamiliar feeling of fear and hopelessness overcame me. I exclaimed, “I’m from Chicago.” A look of disbelief covered their melanin-covered faces like the moon covers the sun during an eclipse.

“No seriously Marquan, where are you really from?”

I repeatedly answered Chicago and told them that I was an nth generation American, so far down the line of my genealogy tree that I couldn’t even tell them.

Just when I thought the interrogation was over and it couldn’t get worse, one person in the group commented, “Oh, so you’re JUST BLACK.” The phase struck me like a dagger. My identity, which I believed to be secure, became fragile. I became exasperated and defensive.

“What the hell do you mean just black?”

When the police pulls you over are you not just as black as I am? As if Donald Trump hates either of us any less than the other.

As time went by, I had a period of introspection as I tried to rationalize what had just happened.

“I’m light skinned. I have to be mixed with something right? I mean my great-great-great grandmother was Cherokee. I think ….” “Come on let’s be honest, we all know why most of my family is light skinned, but it would be politically incorrect to say why.”

I realized how much subconscious animosity natives to Africa and other foreign, predominantly black, lands and American blacks have against one another. The media is such a powerful platform. Africans come to America believing that black Americans are lazy thugs. When black Americans meet Africans, we think that they’re poor peasants from the commercials, carrying pales of water on their heads.

That’s all that I saw growing up on television. “For twenty-five cents a day you can adopt a hungry African toddler.” It became a familiar jingle like, “twinkle twinkle little star” or any other lullaby. I believed this was the norm.

After this altercation, I found myself day-dreaming in class unable to concentrate on my professor, whose words seemed escape me. I continuously asked myself who I am in hopes that my own subconscious would give me an answer. I looked to those who came before me and realized my identity is the sum of all of my ancestor’s experiences.

My culture is the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s, when black men owned a suit and poets spoke to the cadence of Jazz music. Poets like Langston Hughes, who I’ve idolized my whole life and adored, because he spoke out on the ills of society and what it means to be a black man in America.

My culture is the civil rights movement, where men and women conducted sit-ins; butts glued to the chair with a blank stare daydreaming of equality while racist white men cursed and spat at them and sprayed them with water hoses.

My culture is Fred Hampton and Huey P. Newton of the Black Panther party. Afros picked out, clinched fists raised to the sky, holding the heartbeat of black solidarity in one hand and a weapon in the other, because they felt we had to fight fire with fire and could no longer turn the other cheek to our oppressors.

My culture is Hip-Hop culture — baggy jeans and starter jackets with titled baseball caps, beatboxing and Adidas jogging suits with b-boys dancing, and freestyle cyphers on corners in the neighborhood with young men sporting high-top haircuts. My culture is Hip-Hop culture transcended to the level of tight skinny jeans, dreadlocks and auto tune.

So I come to the conclusion that, although I can’t claim an African tribe, my blackness still blossomed from the bosom of the motherland. I just have to read books to close the gap (because our school system only teaches three-fifths of our history).

Our black is still beautiful.

Don’t let them pit us against each other. I refuse to be alienated by society and by my brothers and sisters. We are powerful. They fear us, because they know we’re stronger together. What’s a clinched fist without a thumb? VFP

Marquan Jones is a graduate of Proviso Math and Science Academy and incoming freshman at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He’s among the first Proviso students to attend an Ivy League institution. He starts classes this fall. 

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Fearing Area Public Schools, Some Residents Explore Charter Option

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Proviso District 209’s experience acquiring a building and starting PMSA Magnet School can offer lessons for those interested in starting a charter school in the area. | Proviso Math and Science Academy file photo

Tuesday, August 16, 2016 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || By Jackie Glosniak 

After years of seemingly endless conversations regarding the quality of schools in the area, a small group of parents gathered last Wednesday to inform themselves on the potential of introducing a charter school option.

On Aug. 10, four Forest Park residents gathered at the Howard Mohr Community Center for an open forum exploring the possibility of a local charter school. Allison Jack, a River Forest resident and director of charter growth and support with the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, hosted the meeting after advertising at the Forest Park Aquatic Center and Public Library.

Jack originally became interested in the opportunity for Forest Parkers after hearing community complaints about area schools and being dissatisfied herself with the public schools in River Forest. Her goal for the inaugural meeting was not to make solid plans for a charter school but simply to provide an avenue for outreach and see if the idea would resonate.

“In Forest Park, we know that, given the amount Forest Park spends [for District 91], the outcomes are not what you would expect to see,” Jack said. “Forest Park spends more than River Forest [per pupil] and we hear a lot of parents are dissatisfied. We’re very much at an early stage of trying to find groups of parents who are interested in doing something like this. We don’t know what the school would look like.”

At the meeting, Jack outlined guidelines for establishing a new charter school.

To start, a charter school would need to be governed by a nonprofit board since that is the law in Illinois. Then, applications would need to be put into area school districts to get formal approval for children from that district to enroll in the charter. If a school district says no, there is an appeal process that could take place through the Illinois Charter School Commission.

Additionally, charter schools do not have boundaries in the same way typical schools do. In Illinois, there are established district boundaries for charter schools. However, how the school would work would be determined once members from partnering communities got together, figured out what they wanted the charter school model to look like, and applied to include their desired school districts.

Regarding funding for charter schools, Jack said, essentially, the schools follow a model where the money follows the children. Because charter schools are public schools, children who come from individual school districts bring the amount of tax dollars that would have been spent on them at the regular public school to the charter school. While the amount may not be exact, it would reflect a rough per-pupil amount as the tax dollars allotted for each child in a school district and those dollars would then move to where the child is actually a student.

In order for children to become enrolled in the charter school, there would be an application process and enrollment caps in order to ensure reasonable class sizes and resources. Once a charter school reached its optimum capacity, families still looking to enroll their kids in the charter would be placed in a blind lottery or on a waiting list.

Because charter schools mean establishing a new physical building, it would have to be determined exactly where the charter school would be housed. Jack said that, sometimes, charter schools could be built from scratch or open in former school buildings or former commercial properties.

“[Charter schools] are a huge challenge wherever they land because there will be people who are closer and who are further,” Jack said. “If you say you’re going to put a school in Forest Park, that doesn’t mean you have to be a Forest Park resident. And we don’t know what the school would be like because an operator is down the road [in the process].”

With the vast difference in neighborhoods socioeconomically and culturally in the Forest Park area, Jack added, there would be a lot of challenges in bringing a charter school to serve such a diverse population.

“This is really asking people to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” she said. “How do you serve kids from very affluent families and very low-income families and be successful?”

One Forest Park resident interested in the possibility of a charter school is Kevin Leonard, the father of a third-grader in District 91, who is dissatisfied with the district.

“I’m irritated that I don’t think my son is getting the quality of education he should be getting at a public school that my tax dollars go to,” Leonard said. “We are thinking about options like a lot of people. I know this year at least 8-10 families who have moved out of this neighborhood to primarily pursue other educational options for their children because they are deathly afraid of sending their kids to Proviso East.”

Leonard added he feels voicing his opinions to the district have been unvalued and that other parents are worried their concerns will be treated the same.

“Either I go or my wife goes [to school board meetings], but people do not show up, and I know they’re pissed off about schools,” he added. “The district either has to step their game up to hold onto what they have or they’re going to try to fight [a charter option] to keep it out because they’re too lazy to step it up.”

Some residents are also worried dissatisfaction with the status quo won’t be enough to truly enact change.

Andrea Poole, a Forest Park resident and mom of a 1½ -year-old, is worried people will be scared about trying to bring a charter school for fear of a backlash from district officials and neighbors.

“We are worried about this getting politicized before it even grows legs,” Poole said. “People are coming here to be like, ‘What is a charter school? I saw this flyer and I’m kind of curious.’ And then it’s like, ‘Forest Park is going to get a charter school’ and it blows up in the newspaper before it ever has a chance for parents to be curious. That is a real fear of mine.”

Jack said her goal right now is to meet individually with the attendees to make it a  grassroots effort before officially starting any process.

“What I’m really focused on is trying to meet people and determine if there’s interest here,” she said. “Nothing is going to happen in the next six months; there’s not enough community awareness or support. It’s not going to go anywhere unless there’s a core group of parents who are willing to say, ‘This is what I want.’ It really has to stem from the community.”

For more information about charter school opportunities, contact Allison Jack at 312-629-2063 or ajack@incschools.org. VFP