It is a perpetual split in every town. There are the residents with kids in the public schools. And there are residents without kids, with kids in private schools, with kids who graduated years back, you know, way back when everything including the schools “was better.”
In most towns, most of the time, the divide isn’t significant. Parents with kids in public school are usually reasonably pleased. And the non-parents are either indifferent or actually grasp the vital role that good schools play in building their property values and the reputation of the community.
However, when it comes to its public schools, Forest Park is different. And this time different is not good. The village has long had – and we’re talking nearly 50 years – a strangled relationship with its public high schools in Proviso Township. All sides of this sorry tale have truth. Forest Park abandoned Proviso East due to racial fears. Proviso East spiraled into an utterly failed school as the social ills of other communities festered, instability took hold of educational leadership and politics entered governance.
The impact of not having a viable public high school system has undermined Forest Park as residents moved out as their kids grew up or double taxed themselves to pay private high school tuition.
As grim as the high school situation has become, Forest Park has always and rightfully taken pride in its elementary and middle schools. Until recently. There were, a half decade back, rightful concerns about behavior issues at the middle school. Those have been directly addressed with measurable success. The district had some financial stress that was relieved by generous taxpayers.
Today the D91 schools move sharply forward under able school board leadership and a progressive administration. But you might not know that if you were simply listening to the chatter. There is negativity in the air and the school board has heard it. Last week after a long discussion and some disagreement with its superintendent on next steps, the board agreed that it needs to proactively celebrate its successes and tell that story to all Forest Park residents, particularly those without kids in the schools.
We agree with this positive choice. There are many positive stories to tell and it is better to be pro-active in making news than reactive in responding to rumors, doubts and active smears.
We’ll close with the active smears. Two elected Forest Park village commissioners – Mark Hosty and Tom Mannix — have actively and determinedly smeared our public schools. Outside of possible political gain in gaining a foothold on the school board, an attempt that failed miserably, we cannot figure the upside to village officials undermining local schools. But both Mannix and Hosty have done it repeatedly. And for that they should both be turned out of office next spring when village elections come round.
It is time for Forest Park to pull together and move forward.