Board Votes to Terminate Heartland Health Center Contract


The Board of Education during a meeting on April 7, 2016.

By Grace Geraghty

As a result of a 4-3 vote, the District 219 school board terminated its contract with Heartland Health Care at its meeting Tuesday, April 5.

Heartland Health Care centers are a new feature to District 219, having opened this year with the fervent support of former superintendent Nanciann Gatta. The centers were funded in part by the North Suburban Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit organization that awarded District 219 a $1.3 million grant, in addition to the $500,000 the district would be paying to run the clinics for the first two years of operation.

Before the vote was taken, president Mark Sproat read  a short statement on behalf of the board of education, implying that they were going to vote to terminate Heartland’s contract.

“Tonight the board of education will act on the recommendation from the Health and Wellness committee to terminate the District 219’s agreement with Heartland Health Center,” he said.

Sproat’s statement also outlined the reasons the board was going to terminate the contract.

“The district eliminated social work, psychologist, and nursing positions to cover that cost [of the subsidy owed for the presence of the health centers],” he said. “It was believed at the time that services provided by the student health center staff would offset this loss of district services to students. This has not been fully realized in the eight months since the opening of the student health centers.”

Despite hearing statements from several Heartland employees during audience-to-visitors touting the benefits of the in-school health care centers, board members Brian NovakDavid Ko, Linda Lampert, and Sproat voted to terminate the Heartland contracts, eliminating the health centers presence in Niles West and Niles North for the upcoming school year. Members  Joseph Nowik, Ruth Klint, and Carlton Evans voted to retain the health centers in the 2016-2017 school year.

The implementation of the new healthcare centers caused a shift in certain services. Students without an IEP, 504 Plan or special education classification had to see their academic counselors instead of a social worker, which caused controversy among students and staff.

During the meeting, new board member positions were also voted on. Lampert ran these elections, naming the position as it came up, to which members responded with their nominations for said position.

Immediately before the election process began, Lampert also read a brief statement of her own on the abuse she perceives certain members of the school board receiving from the community.

“There are several people in our D219 community who apparently feel it’s appropriate to bully, shame, and threaten members of this board of education for their own agenda regarding board positions,” she said.

Lampert then reminded the public that board members are not forced to take public opinion into account when casting their votes for board positions.

“We listen to what you have to say, but by no means are required to act on your behalf, but by our own,” she said.

First, the position of board president was decided upon. Both Klint and Sproat attempted to pass motions with their nominations at nearly the same time. According to the recording of the meeting, Klint’s intention to move was stated before Sproat’s (1:05:10). However, Lampert believed Sproat announced his motion first, and so he was allowed to give his nomination. After nominating himself, Sproat’s motion, seconded by Lampert, passed 4-3. Members Nowik, Lampert, Sproat, and Ko were in favor, while Evans, Klint, and Novak were opposed. Klint was never allowed to state her own nomination. Upon reclaiming the seat of board president, Sproat remarked that he “took back the power.”

For the position of vice president, Klint was able to nominate Novak. This motion, seconded by Evans, passed 5-2. Only Lampert and Sproat opposed, as Novak, Ko, Klint, Evans, and Nowik all supported the appointment.

Klint also nominated Evans as secretary and Nowik as secretary pro-temp, both of whom won unanimously.

During audience-to-visitors, community member and North Shore Voice journalist Eric Ponders called for greater communication among board members and the school administration.

“The bottom line here comes down to responsibility and communication between the administrators with the board members,” he said.

Referencing the 2013 lunch strike that students rallied behind, Ponders suggested that a more successful district would be more focused on student opinions, instead of board prerogatives. Going off a previous speaker, he also requested more transparency surrounding an investigation  report that was released earlier this month.

“I’m doing this for the students and I’m doing this for the taxpayers,” he said. “You need to let the students take over this district.”

In a dramatic finish, Ponders then proceeded to attempt to cut off his long ponytail, as a show of support with the d219 students.

“I will cut this in solidarity with the students,” he said.