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For many, many years the school board in District 91 avoided making decisions that might ruffle feathers in requiring that things be done differently. It has a reputation for being a docile group that rarely casts a split vote and relies tremendously on its superintendent, almost to the point of being an unnecessary appendage to the process.

A little more than a year ago we used this page to make this exact point, but also to express our excitement that under President Glenn Garlisch the board seemed re-energized. We credited the newly hired superintendent, Lou Cavallo, as someone who seemed likely to encourage frank, respectful discussions on subjects that were previously regarded as taboo.

“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,” we predicted back in November 2007.

The recent months-long debate on a bold and dramatic change to the elementary schools is Exhibit A that this is an exciting time in District 91. Board members and administrators deserve credit for conducting a very reasonable debate on the merits of restructuring the neighborhood elementary schools. There was an enormous amount of public input to consider. There was also the opportunity to be held captive by a vocal minority and simply maintain the status quo.

That the board voted in support of the superintendent’s proposal is a positive development for the schools, and signals the end of a stagnant period in local education.

There are other changes in the works – or already in place – that should give the community confidence that learning will flourish in these classrooms. The vice president of the school board, Sean Blaylock, is so confident in fact, that he’s debating whether he can have a similar impact in the public high schools. Blaylock confirmed this month that in the interest of real reform he may jump into the snake pit at District 209.

During the season for miracles, Forest Park can only hope that Blaylock says yes to this challenge.

It should be abundantly clear that Proviso Township High School District 209 is not going to find an agent of change within. There is a political stranglehold that is literally choking the district to death, and until that grip is released, children in this township will be robbed of their right to a decent public education. Should Blaylock find himself on Proviso’s school board he will absolutely need a few like-minded people to begin breathing new life into those classrooms. Forest Park can’t afford to continue writing off District 209 as a loss anymore than the nine other communities that funnel tax money to the district. Hopefully he can find support for his cause.