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Support for schools’ proposed change

I believe that the current divisiveness of issues concerning the restructuring of public schools in Forest Park is affected by institutional racism (like racial covenants in real estate and bank lending preferences) and racial prejudice. I would also expand the local educational issues at hand to include K-12.

The challenge at hand is the manner that we let those restrictive attitudes obstruct us. The main goal is providing the best education for all our students. Racism is not the dominant factor or shortcoming facing us, but it is not entirely innocuous as some might imply. Dr. Cavallo’s restructuring plan for District 91 reflects sound educational logic, both fiscally and socially, that can foster a healthy system that celebrates diversity and prepares students for the real world. Locally it seems reasonable to address race relations and remain vigilant of the negative consequences, however uncomfortable it makes us. Subtopics of integration and segregation are extremely relevant. It would be better to put it back on the table and let all participate in the big-picture conversation and act collaboratively. I applaud the workshops by District 91 and recent discussion at our village council, but they do require action in continuing the conversation.

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was sitting in my fourth-grade classroom at Garfield when we were told that President Kennedy had been assassinated. In 1968 I graduated from Forest Park Middle School, that summer I watched the Democratic Convention and riot in Grant Park, on TV. That fall as a freshman at Proviso East I witnessed first-hand the race riots on our campus. A lot of Forest Park kids did.

I graduated from Proviso in 1972, my son graduated from Proviso in 2008. Forty years from 1968, I watched President-elect Obama address the public at Grant Park on TV while my son, the 2008 Proviso graduate, watched from Grant Park. Pulled back in as a witness again, I can’t help feeling some connection to these events of historical significance reflecting change and hope. American public education needs problem solvers and a sense of urgency that allows the servicing of all our children, including African-Americans, period. Education is our county’s best method of investment in human capital that creates mobility that is essential in alleviating social disparity and poverty. Let’s hope that it will not take another 40 years for K-12 public educational problems in Forest Park, the state of Illinois and in the United States be conquered and compassionately be solved. I am confident that the District 91 Board of Education will make the right decision and take action in spite of the slings and arrows of a vocal opposition that may very well be in a minority, or commit to be “beholden” to past educational programs that only reinforce a false sense of security of upholding the status quo.

I’ve been there.

Bob Cox
Forest Park, District 209 school board