I am proud of the police protection that I have received in Forest Park. I feel so safe that I could sleep in my backyard, with my windows open or with my doors unlocked.
However, I was concerned when I stopped door-to-door and noticed that most homes had a no solicitation or a security alarm system sign in the windows.
We need the police, school, municipal, social service, faith-based, and business organizations to partner to provide a high quality of life for all residents. However, I do not understand the necessity for a joint agreement by school direction to provide Forest Park police protection at the new Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA) scheduled to open on August 8, 2005, in Forest Park on Roosevelt and First Avenue.
We do not need another issue of contention to add to the debate over the purchase of the PMSA such as zoning, the way the issue was handled, lack of input by the community, the questionable behavior of the contractors, low enrollment, or the astronomical cost to rehab the building.
I am concerned that Elgin, Naperville, and Chicago are building schools with numerous acres of land for similar amounts Proviso is paying to rehab a building without acres of land.
When I was asked my opinion about the PMSA, I stated that regardless as to the political intentions of the purchase, we cannot argue that smart, well-disciplined students will have improved grades, attendance and behavior in the school.
Yet, I am perplexed as to why we need police protection at a school with about 130 smart, well-disciplined students. The political patronage of police in the schools should not be perpetuated at a new high school.
The dysfunction and disparity between the expectations and actual behaviors of School Liaison Officers and School Resource Officers is alarming throughout Proviso Township:
Due to increased violence and bullying throughout our nation’s schools, we need police to address violence, bullying, provide monthly crime reports, and suggest prevention and intervention strategies for students. Yet to other residents, it appears that some police in the schools sit and greet, cannot be found, run errands, double their pay at school events, work two full time jobs for the police and school, get paid twice as much as paraprofessionals and have less physical contact with students.
As we monitor the number of police hired by Proviso Township High Schools from Melrose Park, Maywood and, now, Forest Park, we need to examine these joint agreements and evaluate the effectiveness of School Liaison Officers and School Resource Officers based on student’s decreased discipline infractions, increased attendance and increased academic achievement.
As Forest Park renews its Community Comprehensive Plan, it should continue to be concerned with the achievement gap at Proviso instead of police protection. Forest Park could also update its website because it still shows the names of Proviso principals from three and five years ago instead of approving work at Proviso for Forest Park police.
I understand that school/community partnerships share resources and personnel, but students who have a level of respect for themselves and each other do not necessitate police intervention. We should provide students with social/emotional learning skills such as conflict resolution, peer mediation, communications, self discipline and leadership to empower them with ownership of their new school.
School grants could provide police as scholars, scientists and mentors in a high achieving math and science academy to provide students with real world projects in forensic science, civil and structural engineering, and telecommunications as career areas for police.
I would rather get a good night’s sleep knowing the police was deterring car theft outside my window and decreasing the need for households to have security alarm systems instead of having police perform crowd control at the PMSA for about 130 smart, well-disciplined students.
I appreciate your calls and emails, kind words, and issues as a result of my first article. If you have any additional school, community, or Township issues that you want to investigate, monitor and get results, let me know your thoughts at http://craytonbychoice.tripod.com or gc11057