Tom Holms wrote an Op-Ed last week that scratched a scab and now it is bleeding all over the place!

Contemplating our two kids’ high school education has been a sore spot for me for years but it had abated recently due to the enrollment of both of them at what I believe to be outstanding schools academically and for extra-curricular activities. My daughter is a junior at Immaculate Conception Catholic Prepatory School in Elmhurst, Ill and my son is a freshman at St. Patrick’s in Chicago. I am very proud of them both. Any adult who knows them understands how difficult a path they have traveled. This is an outstanding accomplishment for them both.

I care deeply about my children’s education.

I was and am very disturbed by our high school choices in District 209.

I, among many other parents, knew when the petition came around to support the creation of the Proviso Math and Science Academy we may be endorsing a albatross but we did it because we were desperate!! Mr. Holmes, Proviso East is NOT the elephant in the room. It is the very tangible and present travesty of what stands for “high school education” in our district. ANYONE who can afford to send their children elsewhere does so; PERIOD, NO EXCEPTIONS. I believe ALL of the other communities that call Proviso District 209 their home would opt out of Proviso East if they could afford it. That’s the truth, that’s the Elephant in the room. It is a commonly held view that Proviso East High School is barely more than a Juvenile prison with minimum security. Security that needs tightening, some would say. PMSA is a vocational school on steroids for the few who “Qualify.” And where are the extracurricular activities? Held at Proviso East or West? Twelve percent of all the high school age children in Forest Park attend? I’m not surprised.

Mr. Holmes you have revealed that District 91 has banked $25 million of our tax dollars and revenues? OMG!! I see that some fees for the district have been waived and I’m sure there are earmarks on the rest of it for reserves and other, “essentials.” I can agree with you that that is a substantial amount of money and that we should find the absolute best use of it but there we part ways.

I respect your deep contemplation and visionary thinking, (I am aware of a similar approach being implemented in Westchester) revealed in your complicated and convoluted plan but, with all due respect, it is on its face absurd and if it wasn’t so important to me, hilarious. You may feel that our community should take astronomical steps to completely restructure ( “out of the box”) ideas for educating our teens but building another school, to quote a popular line “Ain’t gonna happen.”

Let’s get real. You, me and hundreds, if not thousands of parents over the decades have grappled with the fiasco that is Proviso East High School. Proviso has had little vitality and even less credibility since the racially motivated riots of the 1970’s.The only available response has been to vacate. Abandon our tax dollars and escape the public system entirely, if you can.

We, in my household, have made peace with our children’s high school future. We have painfully managed a private education for our two teens. After begging, pleading (“We live in Proviso East District! Help!”) and crying; falling just short of complete subjugation we have retained tuitions that allow us to secure a bright future for all of us. We struggled through the nightmare and it has left us bitter and disgusted but we will shake that off.

Unfortunately, there remains one LARGE problem, The MONEY. We have poured thousands of dollars into our school system, in the millions district wide, on all levels only to experience poor judgment, bad management and outright neglect flaunted in our faces. If you don’t mind Mr. Holmes, I have a better idea for the $25 million the district has banked. Refund of our tax dollars to families who have shown hardship and managed discounted tuition fees from the private schools their children attend. RETURN THE MONEY, so difficult for us to acquire, that has been banked by districts that do not respect us. I’ll bet that “Ain’t gonna happen” either.

District 209 continues to support, badly, a rotting system that does little more than harbor future criminals and terrify those left to languish or worse. Children are continually deprived a quality education due to a lack of funds to get out of what I call Proviso East, Minimum Security Juvenile Prison.

I have asked the questions and I have heard and read about other people asking them as well. The answers are words without meaning and plans without support. We have been forced to surrender to the ugly status quo.

For our part we have channeled our energy into positive things like finding the best education we can afford. We can celebrate that.

Connie Custardo
Forest Park

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