There is a well told story about a Proviso high school student who was attacked walking down Madison Avenue in Forest Park. As he lay in the gutter badly beaten, a Politician passed him by en route to the Ribfest. The Politician did not take time to question if the youth was in need of assistance. A well-respected Forest Park Preacher approached the assaulted youth, but quickly maneuvered to the opposite side of the street. An affluent Forest Park Husband and Wife approached the visibly suffering student. The Husband sported a Fenwick alumni sweater. The Wife modeled a pink “My daughter is a Trinity High school honor roll student” sports hoody. Unfortunately, the hard working, tax-paying duo stared down the youth without an ounce of compassion.

Just as the sun began to set, an Oak Park school teacher walking down Madison Avenue noticed the Proviso student’s grave condition. The teacher had wandered into the Village of Small Charm to personally verify the hype surrounding the Gaetano’s dining experience. Even though the Oak Park teacher realized the student was not in her school district, she flagged a taxi cab and rode with the student to Loyola hospital. She offered her future retirement pension payout to the doctor in exchange for healthcare services. Every day for three months, the teacher visited the Proviso student at the hospital. She tutored him until he was physically able to return to school and pass the state exam. The Proviso student was very thankful that he found an advocate in his time of need.

Where are the Forest Park education advocates in this critical era of need? Disgruntled naysayers keyboard away on internet message boards claiming there are no public high school education options for Forest Park. My tax bill clearly states in bold $$$$.$$ letters that there are two public high school options. Why don’t Forest Park residents take an active ownership stake in what we fund annually?!?

Instead of discussing the dynamics of building a new high school, our village’s discussion needs to be refocused on taking care of the ones we currently have in our possession. Tax payers, public high school parents, private high school parents all need to flood the voting polls and support board of education candidates which are committed to sincere action and student centered change.

This editorial excursion is not intended to start the next weekly debate contrasting the benefits of private vs. public school education. The core of this opinion column is certainly not intended to invite a detailed rebuttal by a passionate, third-generation, self-certified, Proviso education historian.

The position of my platform should not be leveraged to re-visit any overt or hidden tensions fostered by the dynamic wave of diversity flowing into our nearwest suburban alcove.

It’s not that deep.

This is simply a rally cry to organize every ounce of political, parental, religious, and business influence to engage our public high school district system. The positive momentum of change only comes from a sustained and sacrificial effort by the entire village. It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to raise the bar of expectation for public education.

The opening parable of this passage leads to the closing question for your consideration.

Forest Park, who is our neighbor? HINT: Our neighbor is ANYONE in need. The public high schools of our taxing district are in need of the same support and push for excellence that we demand of our elementary school district. Please join me. I will be waiting for you at the entrance of the next District 209 school board meeting.

The opinions expressed in the article are my perspective as an education advocate and a D209 parent (not as an elected school board member).

Sean Blaylock is a 19 year resident of Forest Park and a member of Forest Park Baptist Church. He is married to Forest Park Library Trustee Andrea Blaylock. The couple have four teenage children (three enrolled in Proviso Math and Science Academy and one attending Forest Park Middle School).

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