Proviso East High School Principal Tony Valente came to Forest Park, Thursday, for an informal meeting to answer questions about the high school, but only a handful of Forest Parkers turned up at the Community Center to ask them.
The theme of Valente’s talk was the slow rebuilding of the Proviso East reputation.
“We’re like a turtle sticking its head out,” he said of the school. Although the event was not sponsored by Proviso Township High School District 209, former D209 board member Bob Cox worked to bring Valente to Forest Park.
Valente said 19 students from Forest Park were enrolled to attend Proviso East next year. He estimated a total of 75 Forest Park students attend Proviso East.
School safety was the first issue he addressed, in a power point presentation listing the number of disciplinary actions per semester.
“There used to be racial tensions at Proviso East. We don’t see any of those issues today,” he said. Valente mentioned his experience as a teacher at the school during the 1990s. “Would I send my children there today? Absolutely. But maybe not back in the 90s,” he said.
While Valente did not offer comparison data with other schools, he did say that in his experience as principal of two other high schools, the disciplinary data was similar.
Valente then moved to the improvement of test scores. According to the Illinois Interactive Report Card, 12.9 percent of students at Proviso East met or exceeded state standards in all subjects.
He shared his personal story as the child of Italian immigrants with little formal education who arrived in the U.S. without speaking English. He hit his stride while attending Triton College and went on to graduate degrees from Northern Illinois.
“I struggled in school,” he said. “Language and vocabulary is the key.”
Valente touted the new D209 literacy program throughout the curriculum, noting that an emphasis on vocabulary would improve test scores for incoming students who read below grade-level. He also mentioned the district’s newest computerized reading program, Achieve 3000.
“They’re not stupid students. They just don’t hear the vocabulary at home.”
With the help of education consultant Gary Fields, Valente said, special emphasis is going to be placed on incoming ninth-graders to get them caught up to do high school work. Almost 40 percent of PEHS students do not graduate in four years.
The district is preparing for a new high-stakes test, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). This test measures non-fiction reading of manuals, charts, graphs and gauges. Valente touted the literacy training done by teachers in the school’s home economics and automotive repair.
Jill Wagner, one of three parents of Elementary District 91students attending, thanked Valente for coming to Forest Park.
“I don’t know where the relationship between Forest Park and Proviso East starts to heal, but I want to thank you for coming here,” Wagner said.