From the earliest days of the 2015 campaign to take back the school board at the Proviso Township High Schools, days when it felt entirely like a long shot against an entrenched political machine, there was this glimmer of possibility among the parents of school-age kids across Proviso Township.
These parents weren't hopeless about their high school options, they were just mightily angry at how their high taxes were perpetually squandered, frustrated at a near total lack of connection to the high schools, disrespected by an administration and faculty who wore low morale as a shield against accountability.
Now in two consecutive elections, these parents have turned out to vote and they have turned out of office an entire school board. In that board's place, Proviso residents elected neighbors who understood that welcoming parents, listening to parents, taking action in support of parents was elemental to ever turning these sorry schools around.
There have been any number of small actions over the past 18 months to signal parents that their role was respected and essential. An early and stunningly necessary change in this narrowly majority Hispanic school district was making sure the schools had Spanish-speaking staff in the front offices of each school, that newsletters and other communications were always in English and Spanish.
Now with the schools about to reopen for fall, the most tangible changes yet have been put in place. New Parent Centers have been created just inside the main entrances to Proviso East and Proviso West. And each center is now staffed with a full-time person whose sole job is to guide parents through the inevitable labyrinth of a large institution.
How does college counseling work? Who does a parent talk to about the number of required credits? About social services offered? How could a parent volunteer?
"We want parents to be treated as partners," Supt. Jesse Rodriguez, now in his second year, said. "We want to do this together. We are not going to do this in isolation."
Eva Kardaras will take up the post at East this month. Delinda Hyde, a District 209 alum, fills the position at West.
These are promises kept by a school board and administration who fully recognize the power of active parents in raising successful students.
Rec Center rising
It took a long time, years in fact, for the Park District of Forest Park to bring its plans for a community rec center to fruition. But since breaking ground in May, the parks have kept construction of this terrific project on schedule.
With a gym, track, fitness center and meeting space, this will be the first significant expansion of The Park on Harrison in decades. Rising on the site of the old Roos Cedar Chest factory, the center is on course for a May 2018 opening.
Kudos to the park district for its perseverance. Gratitude to the village government for its collaboration in waiving some $100,000 in permit fees.
This is a feel-good project for the entire village.