In the never-ending and always painful discussions surrounding Forest Park and its public high schools there is always this Forest Park against the world mentality. We get it. We have sort of bought into it.
But Sunday night as 20 Forest Park parents gathered at the Brown Cow to worry, complain and strategize about the growing impact the failed District 209 Proviso Township High Schools is having on our community there was, to us, a fresh insight that just might provide an opening toward improvement.
There are nine other suburbs beyond Forest Park that feed their children into the Proviso high schools. One meeting participant noted that there are 10,000 high school aged students within those communities. Right now collectively only 5,000 of those eligible students attend a Proviso high school. That means the parents of half the potential Proviso students are scrambling and sacrificing to find any alternative for educating their children.
Forest Park, therefore, is not alone in its perception that Proviso High Schools are an unworthy choice. Half the parents in Proviso feeder districts agree.
Find ways to unite these disgruntled, overtaxed, underserved parents from Maywood and Westchester, Hillside and Melrose Park and there is a coalition of common interest that could upend the failed school board that hires the failed administration that oversees the failed schools that make up this district.
Forest Parkers are not alone. This is not simply the racial dichotomy that it has long been perceived to be. Half the township has rejected these schools – and for good reason.
Now figuring out there is a potential coalition to be built and building it in the face of long-time disconnects, political nonsense and race and class differences are two different things. It won’t happen quickly and it won’t happen without savvy organizing and a willingness to leave the comfort zone. But since de-annexation is a pipe dream and denial has produced its usual outcome, we see collaboration as the best available option.
Now there is a school board election next spring. Three seats on the school board are up for election. This would be a very late start to identify cross-community candidates, create a platform of reform, pass petitions and secure ballot positions. But successful or not, it is a place to start and for parents with growing children there is no time to waste.