By and large, Forest Park’s schools have fared well enough over the years that few criticisms, beyond the rumblings typical of any school system, have surfaced. Generally speaking, the students are able to attend whatever high school they may choose, teachers are paid at a level consistent with other districts in the state and the finances are well in hand.
Whatever successes and failures District 91 has encountered in recent years, a portion of the responsibility always rests with the school board and the superintendent. Interestingly enough, Forest Park is getting ready to usher in a new superintendent who will answer to what will likely be a decidedly different school board than what we’ve seen in the last few years.
We haven’t checked the record books, but we’re sure the board’s string of 7-0 votes rivals that of even the most sweet-tempered organizations. This body has come to bear a stronger resemblance to a collection of bobble head dolls than a group of seven, thoughtful individuals.
There are three new faces on the school board (one by appointment) as a result of the recent election season, but arguably the biggest change came when Glenn Garlisch was named board president. Without being an overbearing presence, we expect Garlisch will challenge his colleagues to think creatively and actually discuss the items on the agenda. This is something that the former board president was simply too meek to do. As a member of the municipal Fire and Police Commission, Garlisch showed the community some real backbone in casting the lone vote not to fire a ranking veteran officer over some trumped up charges. He then stepped aside, rightfully recognizing a conflict of interest, when the same tactics were executed on another officer who also served on the school board.
Garlisch has since announced he will resign from the Fire and Police Commission to focus on education.
Far and away, the most pressing issue before the school board and incoming superintendent Lou Cavallo is the achievement gap between white and black students. Several months ago when results of the latest round of standardized tests were released, retiring Superintendent Randy Tinder cried foul over the comparison of District 91 to other districts in the state. While we agree that standardized tests should not be the only measurement used to judge our schools, the simple fact remains that white students in Forest Park are outpacing minorities at a staggering pace.
In the months since these scores were released, the board has had no discussion on the subject.
Unanimous votes do a lot to demonstrate the school board’s solidarity, but the community is left wondering when everyone decided to agree. We look forward to the new superintendent and the new board president bringing these conversations to the public.