Chicago Heights, IL

Senior Prairie State Board Member Jay Readey Questioned On Equity, Diversity And Inclusion At Prairie State College

South Suburban News
Senior Prairie State College Board Member Jay ReadeyPhoto byJT Taylor/South Suburban News

After several inquiries regarding our August 2019 story on diversity and Prairie State College working with minorities and persons with disabilities, the South Suburban News is taking the opportunity to reach out to the leadership of the heralded institution.

Prairie State College is a two-year community college offering associate degrees, technical and career certificates, and adult, corporate, and continuing education. Prairie State College is one of the 39 community college districts (comprising 48 colleges) in Illinois. Prairie State College was the first Illinois community college to guarantee all credits will transfer to other Illinois colleges and universities, an assurance that has grown through the Illinois Articulation Initiative.

Founded in 1957 with classes beginning in 1958 it has served the southland region for 65 years. With 13 buildings on a sprawling 130 acre site, it has served the educational needs through out the decades in a region that has seen much demographic change in those years.

Minority population increases in the region has led to much discussion over the past several years regarding whether the institution is doing enough to promote, and encourage minority staff hiring, promotion and vendor participation.

Long serving Prairie State College Board Member, Jay Readey has sat on the board since 2017. He has served in the role and has become a respected member of the board. He has been around long enough to see changes in the make-up of the schools demographic and the demographics of the region.

Normally, when asking questions of an institution, the president of a college is questioned. However in this case, we have chosen to go to the top, and ask senior board member Mr. Readey to answer some questions surrounding various areas of concern as it relates to inclusion, diversity and equity at Prairie State College. We have submitted our questions and await the reply from Mr. Readey.

As a senior member of the board, he would be responsible for leading in enacting policies that speak to the equity, inclusion and diversity of the institution. Hiring, vendor participation, outreach and promotion of individuals in a best effort to reflect the demographics of the region and student body, would be considered common sense initiatives. However, the college utilizing the Illinois Community College Board Business Enterprise Program to the greatest extent possible, would also be a good start.

In 2020, the estimated Prairie State College annual budget was approximately $52Mil., so it is very important how those funds have been allocated in an equitable and inclusive way in the years since. Mr. Readey had a lot to do with how they were spent then, and maybe more importantly, where they were not spent. It is even more important when one considers how much the demographics of the school and the region has changed and what actions Mr. Readey has taken since 2020.

We hope that Mr. Readey will answer our questions. We await his responses and we will print them.

Mr. Readey, the questions are as follows:

1. Do you feel that under your leadership as a board member, you have been able to improved efforts to engage qualified minority and Disabled owned business enterprises as it relates to engaging in providing services to Prairie State College specifically? If so, how?

2. Can you provide demographic information on current hiring practices and their result as it relates to race, age, gender and disability over the last 4 years as well as salary ranges. What is the percentage of minorities that are employees of the college?

3. What is the annual operating budget of Prairie State College?

4. What discretionary funds are at the disposal of board members or the President of the College?

5. What is the amount of funds spent with vendors over all? (construction, food service etc.)

6. What percentage of those funds have been spent with minority or disabled owned firms under your leadership?

7. What is the budget for community outreach and what efforts are taken to hire more diverse groups to apply at Prairie State College?

8. What is the projected budget for Prairie State College in its next fiscal years budget?

9. What Percentage of funds is projected to be spent with minority and disabled owned firms under your guidelines in the next fiscal year?

10. What efforts are underway to bring more minorities and persons with disabilities to the college for hire in leadership as well as positions over all inside and outside of the classroom? How many minorities serve in administrative positions at the college?

If there has been difficulties in hiring or promoting, what have they been?

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