Short of annexing our tax dollars away from District 209, Forest Park has little choice but to become much more involved in trying to change the atrocities being committed within the Proviso Township High School District. Part of this challenge includes taking an interest in those who run the schools, but more importantly, parents must be involved in the schools themselves.

For years now, Forest Park families have avoided sending their children to the Proviso high schools. This is unfortunate and costly, but given the dismal alternative it is entirely understandable. For those few families without the means or the desire to enroll their children elsewhere, you must be a greater part of the solution and inspire your neighbors to take an interest in District 209. Everyone can begin to play their part on April 17 and the Review encourages you to consider the following candidates.

If nothing else, Bob Cox’s candidacy gives Forest Park a seat at the table when the board of education meets. Much more than that though, Cox has demonstrated an enthusiasm and thoughtfulness for the well-being of Proviso’s students that is sorely needed on the board. In the last six or seven months we can count on one hand the number of times the word “student” was used by an incumbent board member.

According to Cox, the high school district must take the lead in reaching out to principals in the sending communities so that meaningful relationships are forged. His own interests lie in making capital improvements at East and West and expanding the vocational programs. Cox has also said that he is on board with the superintendent’s plan to begin teaching to the standards put in place by state and federal legislators.

Of concern though, is the support lent to Cox’s campaign by board President Chris Welch. This paper has shone a light on the poor leadership displayed by Welch and we would encourage Cox not to get too close to any one of the incumbent board members. Because the township has been polarized so severely by the board’s political antics, we understand the need for slates and other tactics if anyone is to have a serious shot at winning a seat. But Cox and everyone else on the ballot this year would do well to be bashful in touting an endorsement from a sitting member. Their records, across the board, are nothing to be proud of.

Cox has our endorsement.

Ralph Harris is a Bellwood resident with an abundance of experience in social programs, particularly with the YMCA. Harris’ high praise for slate-mate Theresa Kelly is viewed with an equal jaundice. However, the importance of bringing more families, parents and community members into the schools cannot be understated, and we look forward to any ideas Harris might have. The district superintendent is pushing extracurricular activities as a way to engage these groups. It would be nice to see some meaningful discussion from the board on how these programs are working. Harris is endorsed.

Last but not least is our endorsement of Kevin McDermott, a recent Oak Park transplant to Westchester, which is a community that in many ways shares Forest Park’s interests in District 209. Families in Westchester have largely abandoned the idea of sending their children to the public high schools. McDermott’s background in finance would add some much needed expertise on the board. Additionally, his views as an educator at Triton College will likely be useful in setting academic mandates.

In the interest of disclosure, McDermott is running alongside Harris and Kelly.

Though not endorsed, honorable mentions go to James Boyd, another Westchester resident and former District 209 board president. Boyd’s practical, logical and apolitical approach is exactly what the district needs more of. That said, the likelihood of an independent white guy from Westchester winning enough votes in a predominantly black school district is slim. We hope to see Boyd continue to take an interest in District 209, and through those supporting roles re-establish himself in time for the next election.

Newcomer Robin Foreman was the only other newcomer who accepted an invitation to meet with the Review’s editorial board. Her work on various booster clubs within the district is noted, but her pie-in-the-sky views on community involvement are somewhat unrealistic. The board would do well to solicit Foreman’s help in engaging parents, but we’re afraid she offers little experience in addressing other challenges.

Theresa Kelly is the only incumbent seeking re-election to the board this year, and simply put, voters would do well to show her the door. Repeatedly, she has denied any culpability for the district’s woes. Kelly points to the board president’s voting bloc in wiping her hands of this responsibility, but she has done little to encourage progress.

Frankly, there isn’t a single sitting board member in District 209 that would get our endorsement. There are several who have actively contributed to the financial and academic disaster that passes for a school system. Meanwhile, those who have been complacent in voting along party lines are no less guilty in their roles as enablers.