Tag: Theresa McKelvy

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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Kelly’s Time As D209 Board Head Could End In Coming Months, Say Members

District 209 Together Candidates

District 209 board members Ned Wagner, Claudia Medina and current Board President Theresa Kelly, whose term could come to an end if, as many board members anticipate, a majority of the board votes on May 12 in favor of a policy change that would shorten the president’s term from two years to one. | Wednesday Journal file

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || By Matthew Hendrickson

Theresa Kelly may no longer be president of the Proviso High School District 209 Board of Education by the end of this school year.

The board’s last meeting on April 12 ended with a walk-out by four of its members as the board wrangled over a proposed change to policy that would limit the terms of the board president to one year. The proposal comes halfway through Kelly’s two-year term.

Board member Kevin McDermott, (pictured below), proposed the policy change, which would allow the board to hold a board election in June if his policy change is approved by a majority of its members at the May 12 board meeting.

Members who support Kelly’s presidency, or at least not making a change midway through a president’s term, admit they likely do not have the votes to keep her in the position when the vote comes. Those opposed to her presidency agree, but they offer few reasons as to why the change is necessary.

Kelly said she will continue to serve the board of education regardless of her position on it.

“I was elected to serve the board and that’s what I’ll continue to do, president or not,” Kelly said Monday. “This is just politics.”

Through interviews conducted with members of the board over the last two weeks, the Forest Park Review has tried to get definitive reasons as to why some members feel the change is necessary. Two members of the board, Brian Cross and Teresa McKelvy, did not respond to multiple requests for interviews on the subject.

Members Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and Kelly herself say members who want to hold another election for board president halfway through Kelly’s term should at least provide the public with solid reasoning for why they think the change is necessary.

McDermott and Dan Adams were the only members not supporting Kelly’s presidency who agreed to an interview. Both paint Kelly as a dictator who has lost the support of the majority of the board and has a temperament unsuited for the position.

Kelly said she believes McDermott hopes to claim the position of president for himself, while Cross, Adams and McKelvy are simply exploiting the opportunity to get rid of Kelly’s ability to set the board’s agenda.

McDermott refused to discuss the possibility of his appointment to the president’s seat if a new election occurs.


“Mrs. Kelly is trying to position this that it’s all about me and about me being power hungry,” McDermott said. “I’m not going to have a conversation about that because it’s not about me.”

According to several members of the board, McDermott has been trying to find a way to remove Kelly as president for several months. Two months ago, McDermott reportedly asked the district’s legal counsel what it would take to remove Kelly from her seat and was allegedly told that she would have to have violated board policy in some way. If members wanted to allege that she had, she would be given a formal hearing with representation and the board would need to disclose her alleged violations.

Those board members who would speak about the issue said this course of action was abandoned by McDermott because there is no just cause to remove her.

Wagner, Medina and Kelly say not only has Kelly not violated any of the board’s policies, her leadership has led to numerous accomplishments, including the formation of several committees to address issues in the district with faculty and community members.

Instead, they allege that the opposing board members are trying to get around the hearing requirement by trying to change the board’s policy on term limits.

Possible litigation?

According to several board members, the district’s legal counsel has cautioned the board against this. During a first reading of the proposed policy change, April 12, Wagner called on the district’s counsel to read a letter drafted for the board that would give his legal advice on the issue.

Because such legal advice is privileged, the district’s counsel was prevented from discussing his advice in the public meeting after McDermott, Cross, McKelvy and Adams voted against waiving that privilege.

In our follow-up interview, McDermott refused to discuss the letter and said he opposed waiving the board’s privacy right as a matter of principle.

“It was inappropriate under the circumstances for the letter to be read,” McDermott said of his vote. “Litigation or potential litigation is confidential by nature.”

According to several sources, the letter from the district’s counsel warns the board that it could expose itself to litigation if the board’s policy is changed halfway through the president’s term and recommends instead that the board change its policy at the end of a term.

Kelly’s supporters said the other members’ refusal to allow the counsel’s letter to be read publicly shows how little her opponents value transparency.

When asked to respond to that accusation, McDermott said it was false, but said he wouldn’t answer a question about how allowing the public to hear the legal advice would harm the district.

Adams also declined to address what harm might come if the letter were made public. However, he was more direct about the reason behind the proposed change in policy.

“I’m voting for the policy change to remove [Kelly],” Adams said bluntly. “I only voted for her to show everyone how bad she is. I am sick and tired of everyone thinking she’s a great reformer.”

Adams, however, could not provide a specific reason or incident that showed she was a poor leader. Asked if he was concerned about the precedent such a change would set, he said no.

“We’re the board and we can change policy whenever we want,” he said.

For his part, McDermott would only repeat a line he used twice at the April 12 meeting — that if Kelly were able to find the support on the board after the policy change, she could get re-elected.

Kelly v. McDermott

However, McDermott said he did not plan to vote to re-elect Kelly after the policy change, effectively sealing her removal as president.

“Kelly and her supporters have waged a relentless campaign of attack against me from the day she was elected,” McDermott said.

McDermott claims he has been threatened by Kelly on multiple occasions when they have disagreed on issues. He filed a police report in Forest Park after he alleged that Kelly implied she would have her adult children attack him.

No other board member interviewed said they witnessed the exchange, but several disputed McDermott’s accusations that Kelly was threatening or a bully.

“As far as a threat, I don’t think anyone witnessed a threat,” Wagner said. “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. Theresa is not a bully. Does she go along with what they want? No.”

Medina agreed, saying Kelly can be passionate during discussions but could hardly be called a bully.

“She holds them accountable; that’s what they don’t like,” Medina said.

Even Adams, who said Kelly was divisive, a poor leader and a dictator, said he didn’t find her intimidating.

Medina said she believes one of the real reasons for the policy change is to do away with the committees Kelly formed after becoming president to address issues in the district. The four committees — policy, discipline, education and finance — were formed to allow the board to work on district issues in a transparent setting that allowed the community, students and faculty to bring about solutions together. Policies crafted in the committees are brought before the board for approval.

“It brought in all the stakeholders,” Medina said. “They want to abolish the committees because they don’t want to do the extra work.”

According to Kelly and Medina, neither Cross nor Adams have attended a single committee meeting. Kelly said she believed McKelvy had attended two since they were put in place.

Medina also said that none of the board members who oppose Kelly’s presidency have a student who has attended, is attending, or will attend a Proviso school. As such, she said, none of them has a stake in what actually happens in the district.

McDermott said he felt that was an unfair accusation — his mother was a teacher, his brother is a teacher and he himself is an adjunct professor.

“I think education is a great calling and it’s incredibly important for our community,” he said. “I got involved because I saw a major problem in [how the district was run].”

Wagner, for his part, said he agreed with that assessment. McDermott, he said, has been instrumental to a number of achievements by the board and was a major reason why he himself decided to run for a seat on the board.

“I think there is a place for someone without kids in the district to have a seat on the board,” Wagner said.

Still, he didn’t believe McDermott was being completely forthcoming about his true motivations.

“If that was the case, look at Theresa and what she’s done,” Wagner said. “She has done so much for this district. Under this leadership, this board has done so much to improve the schools and to work for the students. That’s why they can’t point to anything specific — because there is no reason to remove her halfway through her term. [McDermott] wants to be president. Why? What does that really accomplish?”

Adams, who previously served as board president, said he didn’t believe the board was ultimately the biggest factor in the success or failure of the district. He said Proviso students and their parents’ commitment to education was why the district continues to struggle.

“I think it’s cultural,” Adams said. “Parents aren’t involved in what their kids do.”

He also doesn’t believe any of the accomplishments Kelly’s supporters attribute to her could actually be called her accomplishments.

“We’re the board and we set policy,” he said. “Some of those accomplishments that they said at the meeting were begun when I was president.”

Adams said he was not seeking the presidency again but did not know how he would vote. Likewise, McDermott declined to say which member he felt would be best to replace Kelly as president.

For different reasons, Wagner, Medina and Kelly all said the same. Wagner especially said he struggled with the decision.

If there was any point all the members interviewed could agree on was that the fight is detrimental to the image and work the board needs to do to help Proviso become a stronger school district.

Adams said he and the other board members he’s aligned with were likely unprepared for the reaction they got from the audience at the last meeting. He said those in attendance were only a vocal minority and that he would try to explain his position better at the next meeting.

Wagner and Medina seemed resigned to the writing on the wall that will spell the early end of Kelly’s presidency. Both said they were heartbroken over the politics of the issue, but that they would continue to work toward what they thought was best for the students and the district.

Who’s in and who’s out at District 209? We’ll know more at the May 12 board meeting. VFP

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D209 Board Members, Residents Protest Attempted ‘Coup’ To Remove Theresa Kelly From President’s Seat

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A resident during public comments portion of an April 12 meeting, where the D209 board considered changing a district policy that would decrease the term of the board president. | Screenshot

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || By Matthew Hendricksen 

Tuesday night’s Proviso District 209 Board of Education meeting ended abruptly when four members of the board left the meeting mid-session.

Board member Brian Cross repeatedly called the board to adjourn shortly after the board took a five-minute recess during a heated debate over a change in board policy that would reduce the board president’s term from two years to one.

When Cross’ calls for adjournment were not acknowledged by President Theresa Kelly, four board members including Cross, Teresa McKelvy, Kevin McDermott and Daniel Adams stood up, packed their bags and left the room, effectively ending the meeting.

Tensions ran high during the meeting as Kelly and board members Ned Wagner and Claudia Medina struggled to get a clear reason for why their fellow members were suggesting the policy change. The fight was precipitated by McDermott’s request for a change in board policy that would cut the board president’s term in half.

“The lack of transparency here is disturbing,” Wagner said of the motivation for the change, later calling it a “coup” to take the presidency away from Kelly.

Earlier in the evening, members of the public, advocating for Kelly, spoke during public comment with thinly veiled threats directed toward a faction of board members who seemed aligned to end Kelly’s presidency early, three of whom are up for re-election in 2017. Members of the public suggested board members who wanted to vote out Kelly as president had racist motivations, were playing dirty politics, and were beholden to local party bosses.

Speakers included Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon, who said he previously had no plans to run for a seat on the school board, but would consider changing his mind to target seats by board members who voted against Kelly’s presidency. Arbdella “Della” Patterson, a former school board candidate, said she was particularly disappointed in McDermott, whom she believes wants Kelly’s position for himself.

“You want this presidency like a dog wants a bone,” Patterson said. “You’re going to attempt to take this by any means necessary.”

Kelly used the President’s Report portion of the meeting to list the board’s many accomplishments under her leadership, suggesting that there was no basis for a change in board policy that could cut her term in half.

McDermott said at the start of the board’s discussion that his suggestion for the change was motivated to bring equal accountability to every board member. McDermott also argued that if the policy change were approved, there was no reason Kelly wouldn’t remain board president if she could get a majority of the board to back her when the board voted for president again later this spring.

“This policy change is an effort to bring that level of accountability and review to bear on every board position, to make it uniform across the district,” McDermott said.

Kelly questioned his motivations and said the term-limit policy had remained unchanged since 2007. She also alleged that he wanted the position for himself.

The tension between board members deepened when Wagner requested that the district’s attorney provide advice to the board on the issue of whether the board could change the term limits of a president in the middle of a term. The district’s attorney had previously written a letter to the board, which Wagner wanted read during the meeting.

However, the attorney told the members that he would need a majority of the board to approve of him discussing his private legal advice in a public forum. Kelly said she would like him to do so, but Cross appealed her decision.

McDermott also argued that the information provided by the attorney was private and not meant to be discussed in public.

Even so, Kelly suggested that the attorney’s advice would be in her favor.

“We have a six-page letter here stating that [the district’s legal counsel] does not condone this,” Kelly said in response. “This district can be sued and I have the right to sue each and every one of you.”

Ultimately, a motion to read the letter aloud at the meeting failed 4 to 3 — with Cross, McDermott, Adams and McKelvy voting against — and the attorney’s advice was not given publicly.

“I don’t see this as a policy issue,” Wagner said. “I see this as an attempt to remove Theresa Kelly as president. It really has nothing to do with policy.”

There was no actual vote on the change scheduled at the meeting, as it was only a first reading of a proposed policy change. Presumably, the vote on the change in policy would occur after it is placed on the agenda for the board’s next meeting.

“Just so the audience knows, nothing is going to change tonight,” Wagner told the audience, who called out that they would return again in force.

Wagner and Medina repeatedly asked their fellow board members why they would want a policy change, given the board’s many accomplishments under Kelly’s leadership. Medina called the proposed policy change absurd and said the motivation was blatantly political.

“What is really happening is you’re trying to stop the progress that an incredible woman who has dedicated 17 years of her life to improving the students, to improving the district … to dedicating the resources to the improvement of our district,” Medina said. “Why don’t you give us a reason why you’re doing this?”

Cross, McKelvy, McDermott and Adams largely declined to provide a reason. Cross did say he believed the board would be better managed under new leadership, which was why he supported the change, but he would not elaborate.

Kelly said she was surprised by his criticism, brought up the death of his wife and said she gave money to his daughter’s college fund and asked, “Is that what I get?” The question clearly angered Cross, who called on Kelly to bring order and said the board needed to keep personalities out of the debate and simply discuss the issue.

Cross added that the vice president and secretary each are elected to one-year terms and the president should be, too. However, Kelly said Cross never tried to change term limits under former board president, now state representative for the 7th District, Chris Welch.

Kelly again claimed that the reason behind McDermott’s request for a change in policy was that McDermott wanted desperately to be board president himself, which McDermott angrily said was untrue. Kelly said she had even been approached by McDermott early after she was elected, and he allegedly told her he wanted to be president and he wanted her to support him.

“When I won the election, Mr. McDermott wanted me to meet him. … I talked with him and he told me, ‘I’m going to the be the president.'”

McDermott cried out that her allegation was “patently false.”

Kelly then told him to “watch his disposition” and said he was subject to “temper tantrums,” then argued that McDermott was unsuited for the position because of anger problems.

Kelly even went so far as to ask if, during a finance meeting, McDermott screamed at Kelly and intimidated his fellow board members and the district’s administration. Kelly alleged that Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart felt threatened that McDermott “was going to hit her.” Medina asked if Collins-Hart felt intimidated during the finance meeting.

“Due to the volatility, yes I did push back [from the table],” Collins-Hart said.

Kelly also said that McDermott has called another member of the board an, “F-ing, I’ll spell it for you, B-I-T-C-H.”

Wagner called on the board to postpone the debate until the board could attend their board retreat together. The motion was voted down 4 to 3 along the same lines as previous motions.

The board frequently battled over Roberts Rules of Order, which provide a governing structure for the board’s meetings, until Cross threatened that board members would leave the meeting. Eventually the board voted to take the five-minute recess.

When they returned, Wagner again called for the board to go on retreat together to relieve the stress.

“I think we can work together and figure it out and we don’t have to play these games and embarrass ourselves before the community and set a good example for the kids,” Wagner said.

Cross said the board was no longer debating the motion and called for adjournment, which went unacknowledged, ultimately leading to the walk-out. VFP

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