(clockwise from top left) Mary Win Connor, Rafael Rosa, Michael O'Connor and Eric Connor

With four of seven seats on the Forest Park elementary school board up for election in April, change is coming to District 91. The clear choice for voters is whether they want to continue the notable progress this ambitious school district has made in the past decade or if they want to take a strange turn into the muck created by local political profiteer and village commissioner Tom Mannix. Mannix has set up multiple candidates in this race.

School boards, rightly and by tradition, have assiduously avoided partisan local politics. We are educating children here after all. Our children. The local model for politics in education is Proviso High School District 209 under the thumb of State Rep. Chris Welch. And that district is one of squalor and taint, of contempt for young people and taxpayers. Forest Park has enough pain in dealing with Proviso as our public high school option. We do not want to steer our elementary schools down that despicable path.

Happily, the current race with its six candidates offers four strong choices which allows us to avoid, in the main, the Mannix-backed options.

The Review enthusiastically endorses Mary Win Connor, the sole incumbent in the field, along with Rafael Rosa, Eric Connor and Michael O’Connor.

Mary Win Connor has served as an integral member of a school board we admire for its strong focus on an ever-improving and innovative educational program. Whether it is technology, evolving curriculums, positive alliances with faculty, thoughtful goal-setting, District 91 is a model school district squarely facing real challenges. Mary Win Connor deserves reelection.

Rafael Rosa was appointed to this school board a few years back to serve out an unexpired term. Sadly he lost his bid for election two years ago but is now back to seek a full term. While on the board, he quickly displayed his knowledge of and passion for public education, his strength as a consensus building board member and a questioning though respectful approach to school administration. As new state curriculum changes in science loom, Rosa has deep experience and knowledge of science education trends that can only help the district improve. He has been extremely active in the schools over the years as a dad and as a volunteer. Rosa receives our strongest endorsement.

Two years ago, Eric Connor won a strong endorsement from the Review in his unsuccessful bid for the village council. Now as then we admire his calm, thoughtful approach to local governance. He is no showboat just a smart, decent man of the sort that successful school boards are made of. We have misgivings in endorsing both a wife and a husband – Mr. Connor is married to Mary Win Connor — for the same elected body. We have long held that Forest Park is a town which needs more voices, more active involvement and this goes against that belief. But Eric Connor is a strong candidate and we wholeheartedly back him.

Michael O’Connor is a highly thought of Forest Park cop with a special connection to our schools as its PBIS liaison officer. While O’Connor will have to make a determined effort to prove his separation from Mannix, who helped pass his petitions and filed them, we admire his commitment to Forest Park and its kids. His experience at the intersection of public education and public safety is a unique perspective that will be valuable as Forest Park continues to address complicated issues of student behavior.

Brad Keefner and Brian Moritz are the two other candidates associated with Mannix. We question their reasons for running. Neither has children in the district, neither has ever shown the slightest interest in public education in Forest Park. While Moritz has been invisible in this race, Keefner seems to have his heart in the right place. But as a newcomer, his community connections are thin. We’d like to see him show up on more citizen commissions and volunteer groups in town before he runs for office. The long and short of it: We urge voters to avoid these candidacies as a signal that our public schools are not to be politicized.

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