It seems that every time circumstances call for any kind of communication between Proviso Township High School District 209 and the Village of Forest Park, confusion and inaction abound.
It took the district nearly a year to comply with the village’s zoning requirement to simply install a sidewalk, as it had promised, alongside First Avenue outside the magnet school, due to a web of confusion that could have easily been resolved by a simple phone call. That wasn’t a major issue, but it’s now evident it foreshadowed bigger problems to come.
By failing to inform the Forest Park Police Department in a timely manner that 1,000 or so of the most problematic youths the troubled school district has to offer would be spending weekdays in Forest Park this summer, the district put its own students, as well as Forest Park residents, at risk.
Strategies for dealing with issues that could arise, which range from traffic safety concerns to gang violence, could and should have been developed, based on input derived from weeks of conversations and planning sessions involving the police department and Dist. 209 administrators and security guards.
Throwing the issue at the police at the last minute, forcing them to scramble to find a way to provide sufficient security without sacrificing their ability to serve local residents, was irresponsible and unacceptable.
At Proviso, it is always difficult to separate politics from plain incompetence. At first glance, it’s easy to chalk this one up to the latter.
But Kyle Hastings, the district’s director of auxiliary programs, who oversees the summer school program, is surely aware of the need for police departments and municipalities to be able to plan in advance.
After all, he oversees his own municipality as mayor of Orland Hills, a job that surely creates a need for him to shuttle back and forth from Proviso. Why an official who clearly cannot be on the job full time and, in fact, has reportedly been connected to ghost payroll scandals at the Secretary of State’s Office, would be placed in charge of such a demanding assignment is mystifying.
A school board run by unqualified politicians, it seems, leads to an administration also run by politicians. And that leads to chaos and incompetence at an organizational level which, in this case, has the potential to produce consequences for all Forest Parkers.
No matter who is running the show, it is essential that Dist. 209 figures out a way to keep the village in the loop to prevent any future unwanted surprises. If not, Forest Parkers will rightfully continue to question why the village gave the underachieving school district an opportunity to open up shop in town.