There’s much to like in the approach that Forest Park’s District 91 elementary schools bring to developing curriculum. It was on display last week as the school board took its first look at recommendations to update the math and English curriculum and materials for kindergarten through the elementary years. 

First the recommendations came from a committee of teachers. The faculty in this small district play a more vital and hands-on role than is typical. It is altogether healthy. These are the people working each day with our students. They see what works and what falls short in terms of curriculum and materials. They do the research and make the recommendations for upgrades and changes.

More notable in the discussion last week at the school board meeting, it seemed clear that the goals of the teachers and the administration are aligned. In recommending products created with an eye to the new Common Core standards, in being completely comfortable with new curriculum that is largely online and focused on interaction with students, the teachers demonstrate buy-in with this district’s progressive efforts on both testing and integration of technology.

Finally, teachers, administrators, board members and parents — who will have the opportunity to preview these products at coming public meetings — demonstrate how they will invest the generous resources offered by Forest Park taxpayers. Not many districts have the wherewithal to regularly upgrade teaching materials. That D91 is spending those funds in a way that directly benefits students reflects values we all respect in public education.  

Right decision on Boyce

The feel good choice would have been to rehire Donnie Boyce as the basketball coach at Proviso East. A graduate of the school, a one-time NBA player, Boyce returned to East and was a popular and successful coach of the boys’ team. He brought energy and respect to the program. He mentored young men and sent a good many on to college and careers.

But it is impossible to look past his performance as a security guard in the district where one year ago he attempted to break up a student fight but was seen on a student recorded video choking a female student.

Last week his rehiring was blocked in a narrow 4-3 vote of the school board. In this instance, we stand with the majority against the core of the reform-minded board elected last spring. 

A key element of the reform agenda brought forth by Theresa Kelly and Forest Parkers Claudia Medina and Ned Wagner was to totally overhaul systems of discipline and security, to remake the relationships between adults and students in these troubled buildings, to lessen the lockdown mentality of education in Proviso Township.

Important steps have been taken in offering expanded and improved training for the underpaid security force at the school, which has regularly been thrown into impossible altercations without a clear response plan. We have no doubt that Mr. Boyce found himself in just that situation, nor do we doubt his sincerity and talent.   

But more important than Donnie Boyce in this moment is staying true to the message to the community that Proviso is actively, consistently changing.