As we enter another local election cycle, Forest Park has a chance to help bring thoughtful, student-centered candidates to the Proviso Township High School District 209 school board. 

Data released this week by the district shows significant disengagement from the district in almost all the feeder communities. One out of four public school eighth-graders in the 10 feeder towns will sidestep Proviso and attend high school elsewhere. 

Luring those parents back should be the goal of the Proviso school board and administration. This was the topic of a multi-school board summit last July.

“Think about the 18,935,” said consultant Jeff Cohn, referring to all of the students in the entire township, K-12. Cohn urged the group to “give yourselves permission to create a new reality.”

We need school board members who want this new reality. We need board members who view this district-wide parent opt-out as an opportunity instead of a boycott. 

The numbers represent an opportunity to recreate the high schools and win back these taxpayers and parents. They’re an opportunity to break down the defensive silo thinking practiced by D209 administrations past and present. 

A new reality can sweep out cronyism and rebuild morale among teachers and staff.

Forest Park parents are always dwelling on high school: What will we do? Do we have to move? How can my child be safe and learn? 

One way to fix the problem is to engage in the D209 school board elections. This means extending our vision west to the communities who look to Forest Park for leadership and often find a void.

 We shoulder the burden as taxpayers. We contribute 14 percent of the total tax levy to the district. Other towns look to us. The vacuum of effective leadership in Proviso means a strong candidate, either from Forest Park, or strongly supported by Forest Parkers, can step into a strong role and purge the “meh” from the board.  

Meanwhile, in D91 …

Our school district wants to hear from you. District 91 has taken seriously the mandate to develop two-way communication with all stakeholders in the community. 

One good place for the district to start would be training teachers to keep parents in the loop and making it easier for parents to communicate with one another. 

The district’s “digital backpack” is a good idea in theory, and parents have asked for it, but we’ve heard from more than one source that information isn’t getting out for activities and important events. 

Dragging PDFs into a computer file is a lot easier than collating stacks of goldenrod flyers, but the district needs to look at what works and what does not. 

When the district views parents as co-partners in the education of their students, great things can happen. The North PTO is back on track, and parents want to be involved. But sponsoring a pancake event that flops because no one knows is dispiriting. 

Happy parents are among the best advertisements a school district can have.

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