I am writing in response to the recent uproar about recent Forest Park Middle School. As a member of the class of 2007, I still enjoy visiting the middle school to support the Panthers and talk to the coaches and teachers that gave me a great three years while I attended. First of all I would like to commend the school district, Principal Ms. Karen Bukowski, and the long-time athletic director and coach Ms. Mary Norge-Drent for the recent remodeling of the gym. The gym now has supports for the formerly crumbling walls, and a new hardwood surface to replace the old gray rubber surface. Ms. Norge-Drent has worked hard over the last few years to add murals to the wall in order to enhance the Panther’s home-court advantage.

A change that has been criticized is the removal of a phrase from the gym floor used by the former basketball and softball coach, Mr. Fred O’ Connor. The phrase is “Pride, Hard Work, and Excellence” which may seem to be an implied, unnecessary listing of values for the student athletes. With all due respect, since Mr. O’Connor retired in 2003, those words have not meant anything to the hundreds of athletes who have played in the gym, and the program has managed to continue its winning reputation, and has showed this with multiple recent conference championships.

The middle school is not a novelty museum for the alumni to come see their class pictures and banners. In fact, I am sure that most of the alumni rarely, if ever, come to visit the school or to cheer for the Panthers at an event. Ms. Norge-Drent has worked hard to keep the more recent and significant banners up in the gym, and she can not be expected to manage and satisfy all of the alumni’s petty desires.

There also seems to be a focus on the negative while speaking of the Forest Park Middle School. This pessimistic attitude stems from the ignoring of positive accomplishments by the citizens and local media, and rather simply on test scores. Positive events such as the science fair, band and chorus shows, and the National Junior Honor Society are unfortunately overlooked and rarely recognized. In fact, just a few weeks ago the sixth grade class raised over $800 for the Red Cross efforts in Haiti. I think Forest Park needs to start supporting, respecting, and show some pride in the local school.

Matt Walsh
Forest Park