We’ll start with the hopeful part. A representative of the District 209 Proviso High Schools has suggested a sit down between this newspaper and district officials. We’re still working out a date and time.
Talking — directly talking — would be a refreshing change in the relationship between these deeply troubled high schools and, discouragingly, the only newspaper left in this vast school district which even attempts to cover the schools.
We report this week on the odd story of a Proviso teacher who in the past year was arrested for cocaine possession, granted tenure even as many other teachers were fired due to budget cuts, and who has now, just a week after getting tenure, been placed on administrative leave.
Obviously there is a news story here. Add in speculation that the leave was handed out in response to a controversial booklet of student writings compiled by the teacher and inquiries are going to be made by the Review.
Yes, we were stonewalled. The FOIA request we submitted was denied for a batch of strange reasons having more to do with inconveniencing district staff than, in our view, following the Act’s criteria for making public information public.
No, we are not surprised. Relations between this school district and this newspaper have soured over many years. In the past we have fairly but aggressively reported the financial precipice its politically motivated leadership brought our schools to before the state intervened and took control of spending. We have reported on test scores that make this one of the worst high school districts in the entire state. We have reported thoroughly on the shambles created by repeated changes in top administrators over the past decade. And we have reported that the current superintendent has consciously chosen not to speak to us – for years.
This is no way to run a school district. It is no way to attempt to tell your story via the only print media left standing in your school district. And it has to change.
The district objects to our coverage suggesting that we are unbalanced in our view and overlook positive stories in the schools. Here’s the odd circumstance. The Forest Park Review is a newspaper with a single reporter and a primary focus on covering events in Forest Park. Proviso High Schools include a wide swath of the near west suburbs and the schools draw virtually all their students from towns other than Forest Park. That is a sad, historical reality we’ve written about for decades. The truth is, though, that when we write softer school news stories we write them about Forest Park kids in District 90 schools not about a high school student from Hillside.
Is there a middle ground? Well, that’s what you sometimes find when you actually talk.
We’ll let you know how it turns out.