A main rub on Forest Park’s public elementary schools over the years of Supt. Lou Cavallo’s leadership has been communication. Bad communication. No communication. Cautious communication. Sounds-like-it-was-vetted-by-a-lawyer communication.
The district’s school board has taken a solid poke at the widely perceived problem by hiring District 91’s first-ever communications manager. Rebecca Latham joined the district this fall and has gone to work opening up some windows and some doors to greater dialogue.
We get that any school board PR person is going to attempt some spin, but the irony here is that D91 has, in the main, a good story to tell. It tackles complex educational issues head on, it actively involves teachers in decision-making, its finances are strong, and it has invested heavily in both its school buildings and its technology.
A less ambitious school district would have less need for active, open communications. But D91 has suffered with its combination of progressive policies and historically buttoned-up methods of communicating. The conversion to the grade center model and away from the traditional neighborhood school model was a smart and necessary shift. But it was disruptive to both family logistics and neighborhood cohesion. Would have been a perfect opportunity to involve parents in the conversion but instead evolved into an ongoing roadblock between parents and the schools.
And while the district has taken small steps into widening its communication efforts — a new website aligned with the Forest Park Review, the start of social media interaction — the efforts have lacked energy and casual interaction.
Latham has already grown the social media strategy districtwide and for each school, too.
Good for the board in seeing this need, understanding the shortcomings of its current leaders in this key area and taking action.
A race for rep
No state rep who was elected to a first term by only 40 votes and who carries the baggage of Chris Welch should run unopposed in a Democratic primary.
The announcement last week by Chris Harris — the former Forest Park commissioner and nearly the mayor of this town — that he will take on Welch in the coming Democratic primary is good news.
While the time is short (the election is in late winter), there is in place a nascent political network across Proviso Township that erupted into place last spring as a Welch-backed slate of candidates for the Proviso Township High Schools board was trounced by a grassroots band of reformers. Harris is clearly hoping to re-energize that powerful force against state Rep. Welch, who made his local political mark by turning the Proviso high schools into a politics-first, education-seldom fiefdom for a decade.
Voters weren’t impressed two years ago when the well-financed Welch won his first election over Forest Park Commissioner Rory Hoskins by less than 40 votes. That voters then repudiated Welch’s school board slate (which included his wife, continuing the rampant nepotism) tells us there is an opening.
The politics of Proviso are seldom edifying. An actual competitive race for a key office would be good to see.