That activism unleashed and applauded in April when Forest Parkers led the march to a new board majority at the Proviso Township high schools, well, it is now on display in our own District 91 elementary schools. And we could not be happier.
Now we are not comparing the educational, financial or governance morass at District 209 with the strong and capable functioning of our elementary schools. District 91 schools are good to very good, with ambitions to be top notch and have the funding to allow that.
The disconnect we’ve observed that might be holding this district back is the distance, sometimes the distrust, that seemingly exists between the school administration and parents.
We have been extremely strong supporters of the D91 school board and its administration and faculty. Notable things have been accomplished in this district over a decade, and often they have been hard things. Conversion to the grade center model would top that list. Curriculum innovation and thoughtful expansion of technology and testing are true accomplishments.
Somewhere though, the parent community has come to see itself in isolation. It is not usually antagonistic. But it is clearly not a partnership.
Now, over an issue we didn’t see coming, there is an opportunity for an active group of parents — a group with interesting overlap with the D209 uprising — to bring positive objection to the school board and administration. The issue is a significant change in how the district approaches teaching Spanish in the middle school. The outcome of this debate ought to be good conversations, sincere problem-solving and some level of earned trust for both parents and the school leadership.
In seeking to change the year-round Spanish honors program to a 12-week “exploratory” program for all middle-schoolers, the administration is working to solve a minor tangle of scheduling issues and expose all students to some level of foreign language instruction.
These are simply the nuts and bolts of trying to run a complex curriculum within the resources of time and money that any district must deal with. The district thought it had a credible solution. An active group of parents disagree and want more discussion. The school board, rightly balancing its connections to both its administrators and its parent constituents, has slowed the process down to allow more open dialogue during a board meeting this week.
Great instincts. And while we are confident there is some middle ground to be found here, we, honestly, are less interested in how Spanish gets taught next fall than we are interested in watching how all the parties at this table — parents, school board, administrators, faculty — find stronger ways to work together, to communicate, to solve problems, to build the deserved enthusiasm these schools have earned.
This is an opportunity to secure a vital connection. Each party needs to view this as an opportunity to build consensus, not to win a point.