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September 6, 2022
D209 starts school year with teacher deficit
Teachers’ union says 90 classes at West have no teacher

Hefty teacher shortages at both Proviso East and Proviso West high schools have led to unsupervised students, classes above capacity, and dissatisfaction of teachers, students and parents. At Proviso West alone, the Proviso Teachers’ Union (PTU) calculates that at least 18 hires must be made to fully staff the school in order to cover 90 class periods that currently don’t have a teacher.


Superintendent James Henderson informed the public at an Aug. 30 board meeting that there were only several teacher vacancies each at both Proviso West and Proviso East High Schools. He said West was short only two math teachers and two special ed teachers. At East, he reported one math, two English, and one Spanish vacancy. At PMSA, Henderson said there were zero vacancies.


“We will be starting the school with highly qualified teachers in every classroom, with the exception of those that I just informed you of,” said Henderson during the Aug. 30 meeting.


However, upon the start of the school year on Sept. 1, photos and video began to circulate on social media showing dozens of students gathered in the Proviso West gym and cafeteria with no obvious adult supervision. Students reported that administrators were walking through the hallways looking for classes without teachers, telling the students to go to the cafeteria or gym so that they would have supervision. 


In July, Henderson announced that through creative staffing and eliminating inefficiencies, the district could cut teacher staffing by 12.8 percent. He claimed the district’s staffing models that had been in place for years gave D209 an unnecessary 37 teacher positions last year resulting in overstaffing of teachers. Now, however, the district faces severe understaffing.


Across the State of Illinois, school districts are being forced to cope with teacher shortages of three to five percent and the tough decisions about how to best serve the needs of their students. D209 is facing these same shortages, but the issue is compounded by the decision to implement the new, severely streamlined staffing model for teachers announced in July.

During the Aug. 30 board meeting, Board President Della Patterson made it clear that the students should and would have certified teachers beginning on the first day of school. “I want the record to reflect that students should be supervised at all times. At all times. At all times,” Patterson said. She added: “We have teachers in place.” But educators and students in D209 schools are not finding this to be the case.

In a Sept. 6 statement to NBC Chicago, Henderson said that five teachers have resigned since Sept. 1. Watch the NBC Chicago story on the issues at Proviso High School District 209


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