School boards are interesting experiments in group dynamics. There are the elected board members. There are the top staff, hired by the board, who both influence and answer to the elected officials. There are teachers and staff, who do the work by which the school board is judged. Then there are the external forces of parents, local media, state funders and, finally, voters.

Once in a while voters rise up and expel board members. That just happened in Forest Park’s high schools where voters across Proviso were presented a hopeful alternative to their miseries and took it. More often, school board seats go to incumbents and newcomers without a contest. 

That’s what just occurred in the District 91 elementary schools where two veteran board members retired and two newbies slipped into those seats. Blake Harvey and Corrissa Smith took their oaths of office last week. 

Frank Mott and Sean Blaylock are the two Forest Parkers departing this board. When it comes to group dynamics Blaylock and Mott have been true leaders, over years of service, in recasting this board and district. They’ve led the evolution of the D91 school board from a past era of genial rubber stamps to its present state as a thoughtful and progressive board with real community ties. These are men who understand leadership, strategy, metrics and accountability. 

Losing them simultaneously will be a blow to this organization. Add in the strange run of turnover in other posts on the board and the village is left with three veterans in Mary Win Connor, Rafael Rosa and Eric Connor. 

Challenges remain in this generally well-run district. Poor communications with parents and taxpayers were a focal point of the recent State of the District event. And last week the Review reported on issues related to student suspensions.

We’ll look to this newly constituted school board to rise to the opportunities.

Doc Ryan’s makes six

Congratulations to Marty and Lynn Sorice. With the purchase last month of the noted Doc Ryan’s bar on Madison Street, the couple now own six local drinking establishments.

That is an accomplishment and a concentration of ownership we do not recall in all of Forest Park’s long tippling history. In a piece in this week’s Review, Marty Sorice promises a series of upgrades to the once-hopping Doc Ryan’s. Those will be welcome improvements. He also is clear in what motivates his continued investments in our small town. “We think Forest Park is coming back and we want to be part of this exciting future.” Those are always good words to hear from a local business person.

We’d note, too, that the Sorices are active participants in Forest Park life from the Chamber of Commerce to efforts to organize local bar owners in support of video gambling in local establishments. Along with a strong majority of Forest Park voters, we have long and strongly opposed video gambling in Forest Park. But after the most recent election, it is clear that the issue is back on the table, at least for discussion. 

At six and counting, we’d suggest that the bar business in Forest Park must be more than OK without gambling, but we look forward to a frank debate on this issue.