When you attend Village Council meetings you can almost smell the scent of jet fuel in the air. You’re wondering which one of the five elected protagonists will strike the match that will ignite the evenings’ inferno. As far as local entertainment goes, it doesn’t get any better than their bi-weekly Monday evening performances. Not so with our other local government bodies. Both the Park District and School Board seem to run rather dull, mundane, and therefore quiet meetings. Generally, the only people at these meetings are the ones who are required to be there.

A rare exception took place at the February 9 School Board meeting. At this meeting, six members of the community showed up. Six! That’s probably a record! I can imagine the faces of Superintendent Randolph Tinder and the school board members, knowing in their hearts that these people were not there to praise them; that their issues would burden the pace of a usually efficient agenda. I can also imagine Dr. Tinder and all the members pulling out their cell phones to say in unison, “Honey, I’m going to be late tonight.”

One of the issues that this group of audience members wanted to address was the lack of African American teachers in the school district. These guests/audience members perceive this to be a problem in the district. I accept Dr. Tinders’ explanation and I don’t perceive it to be a problem in the school district, but as a Caucasian, I can’t speak for my African American neighbors.

I do draw the line, however, when one of the parents indicates there’s a need for “positive African American role models” in our schools. I re-read it twice in hopes that it was a misunderstanding on my part. Alas, it wasn’t. Our school district has a lot of serious issues that need to be discussed in the open forum of a school board meeting. Test scores, discipline, safety and funding come to mind. All are legitimate topics of conversation. If a parent or taxpayer feels they are being short-changed in any of these areas, they should feel free to come to express their displeasure to the board. However, I can’t agree with the concept of the school district being in the business of supplying role models of any race, nationality, sex, or creed.

A large portion of my property tax bill goes to fund operations at District 91. For this money, I hold Dr. Tinder, the school board, and teachers responsible for teaching not just my 7th grader, but also all the children in the village to the best of their abilities. I am one of those who feel that good schools help create a positive image in the community, and help increase home values, and therefore paying property tax is a tangible and measurable investment for all, not just for those who have children in the school district.

But I don’t want one cent of those tax dollars spent looking for positive role models. The number one role model(s) in any child’s life should be the parent(s). As parents we shouldn’t shirk our responsibilities as a role model by transferring them to a group of people whose sole job it is to teach your son or daughter reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s all well and good that a child may form some sort of bond with a teacher. But being a role model requires more than showing up to work five days a week. Role modeling requires the transference from the model to the child, of positive values, especially moral values.

Just because a teacher is professionally dressed and is good at what they do doesn’t make them a positive role model. I’m sure there are plenty of good surgeons that fall short when it comes to role modeling. The number of politicians, successful in their political careers, but horrible examples in their private lives is too numerous to count.

I couldn’t find the exact quote, but former NBA star Charles Barkley said something along the lines of “I ain’t your child’s role model ” I’m a basketball player. You parents should be your child’s role model.” He’s absolutely right. As a society we tend to glamorize sports figures and Hollywood types, looking to them as our role models when we should be using everyday people who have lived loving, quiet lives, serving their community and caring for their families.

Positive role models are all around. Positive role models don’t seek the position, nor are they asked to fill it. By observing their actions, and at times, their inactions, children can be greatly influenced by the quietest of people.

Within the past several months, two friends of mine from St. Peter’s Church passed away. Ed and Emma Stange were friends of mine, even though they were 40+ years older than me. I never asked them to be role models for my children or me. They did so unknowingly because of who they were and the lives they led. To the best of my knowledge, Ed never won any home run hitting championship, and Emma, his wife of over 68 years never had a TV show where she showed people how to cook and knit. Very few people outside of their family and neighbors in Forest Park would even know who they were. But they were great role models because they were dedicated to their family, their friends, and to their God. There are people like Ed and Emma in all of our lives. They’re just not on TV or the front pages of the newspapers. They’re there to be found and utilized without costing us one penny in tax dollars.