The school board at District 91 seems to draw little interest within the community, at least judging from the attendance at these meetings. It’s truly rare that a parent or taxpayer makes an appearance. This is unfortunate for a host of reasons, the latest being that no one has been present to witness the sea change in how this group goes about the business of educating our kids.
It has been said on this page that the school board was prone to rubber stamping whatever was pitched by administrators and seemed to lack the leadership within its ranks to spur critical discussions. We’ve also commented on the unsettling need for appointments to fill board seats, which is a much less democratic process than an election.
Following the February elections, we were encouraged to see the gavel handed to Glenn Garlisch who, as president, has shown a real enthusiasm for the responsibilities. And for whatever faults we may find with the previous board, its members seem to have done a heck of a job in hiring Lou Cavallo as the new superintendent to replace a longtime and well liked administrator in Randy Tinder.
Add to the mix four new school board members and you’ve got a district poised to be anything but stale in the coming years.
On a number of occasions since taking the reigns this summer, Cavallo has spoken directly and openly about the 800-pound gorilla that has dogged our school system. There is an achievement gap between white students and minorities in Forest Park and all the evidence suggests it’s a cultural issue unrelated to economics. Cavallo has stated this in very clear terms and the school board is backing his efforts to address it. This is definitely new.
A committee was formed several years ago at the middle school–somewhat quietly we suspect-specifically for the purpose of helping black and Hispanic kids keep pace with white kids. This newspaper only learned of the group last week and is struggling to square that initiative with the scathing remarks issued by the previous administration in March when the Review analyzed performance data along racial lines. It would seem the district’s new approach, to tackle this problem openly and respectfully, is likely to build on whatever successes have already been achieved.
Board members also appeared energized this month to learn of several new strategies the administration has for improving the learning environment overall. A revision of the curriculum is chief among those, but there are also plans to invest in the staff and new technology. Further, district officials are touting a push to find new ways to reach parents in Forest Park and engage them in their child’s learning.
It isn’t often that residents of Proviso Township in Cook County can be heartened by the same things that excite our elected officials, but District 91 seems to be cutting a clear path toward an important goal.