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It is unsettling that the Proviso Township high school district is poised to dismiss yet another superintendent for reasons that the community has not been told of. Far more alarming, however, is that it’s really not all that surprising.

During the early months of his administration, Stan Fields spoke openly and frankly about the district’s wasteful spending habits, about hypocritical board members and the apathy of residents who allow them to remain in office. He spoke earnestly of changing the classroom environment and instituting new standards that would not allow disengaged students to simply float along. Parents would be encouraged to participate, teachers would hold students accountable and building principals would not have to look over their shoulder at malevolent administrators. Those were the high schools he promised to deliver.

Then somewhere along the way a fissure began to grow between he and the school board members who sit squarely under President Chris Welch’s thumb. There were disagreements over contracts. Fields’ candor was replaced with tight-lipped brevity that only begged more questions. And Welch, a typically scripted speaker with little tolerance for discussion that reaches beyond what appears on the agenda, began making exceptions when given an opportunity to chastise his administrator.

Then the FBI and federal prosecutors arrived and asked to have a look at what the school board has been up to this year.

To speculate on the reasons for Fields being placed on administrative leave late last month would be simply that, speculation. Like many, we eagerly await the outcome of his pending termination hearings.

But it should be abundantly and devastatingly clear that as long as the ones who pervert the schools remain in power, all the talk and all the swagger about reforming District 209 is worthless. This is an institution that, in all likelihood, is no less corrupt than the most soiled offices in Cook County and it deserves every bit of scrutiny that public and private resources can bring to bear.

Through their own list of questions submitted to the superintendent regarding the District Foundation, board members proved they have paid little attention to the job taxpayers have empowered them to do. As reported on page one this week, the board should have been able to answer many of its own questions. Perhaps if less time were spent brokering sweetheart deals in the dark, board members would see what’s directly under their noses.

Which brings us back to reform. Board member and Forest Park resident Bob Cox said he may quit the position to which he was elected just a few months ago. His frustration is understandable; no one wants to be ignored and he hasn’t got an ally on the school board. With or without an ally, Cox still has an obligation to his neighbors to ask questions and cast votes on their behalf. If appealing to board members is futile, find a new audience. Appeal to your constituents. Make yourself available to federal investigators. Talk to the state about the plight we voters elected you to address.

Proviso’s high schools will not fix themselves as long as the ones who pervert the system remain in power.

 


Clarification

The term “mentally retarded” was used in the sub-head of an Aug. 1 story in accordance with Associated Press guidelines. Generally, the Review adheres to those guidelines provided by the AP on issues of editorial style. However, two area advocacy groups that have our respect expressed concern over the phrase, and as such, the Review will give greater consideration to those terms deemed more appropriate by these organizations.