The best estimate is that 10 Forest Park families missed the application deadline for their eighth-grader to test into the Proviso Math and Science Academy this fall. How that happened is subject to some debate. Poor communication is the root though some place the blame on the District 209 high schools and some point a finger at Forest Park’s elementary schools.
This being Forest Park, there is considerable angst as most villagers consider admission to PMSA the single viable option for a public education for their children. The election last spring of two Forest Parkers to the school board also raises the share of voice locals perceive the village now has in Proviso Township high school affairs.
There was a flurry of meetings last week during which the possibility of adding a make-up test was discussed. That idea became moot when a quorum of the board could not be raised for a special meeting last week to settle the issue.
As painful as this is for the families involved, we think the outcome here is the right one. A testing process was in place, one reportedly similar to past years. For the many families across Proviso who followed that process and are expecting news on admissions in time to make alternate private school plans, a delay caused by a make-up test just isn’t fair.
And judging by the statements of other Proviso board members, this is not the first year they’ve heard frustration over lousy communication about this test among various feeder districts in the township. Creating a special solution for Forest Park because of our village’s new representation on this board would send a sour message to parents in Bellwood, Melrose Park and Hillside who have had the same poor experience.
Two realities: The communications effort out of District 209 has long been poor. The next superintendent has to remake that function from its insular and self-protecting instincts and move on up from there. Further, the relationships between our high school district and the elementary school districts that feed the three high schools are broken, ignored and abused. There is not a more critical task for this board and the new superintendent than growing these connections.
Secondly, it was refreshing to hear talk that perhaps Forest Park parents need to take a fresh look at Proviso East, historically Forest Park’s public high school. Yes, we agree, this is a troubled school and our precious children are freshmen but once. We loved, though, hearing East’s vibrant new principal, Patrick Hardy, actively touting his school as a legitimate alternative and consciously reaching out to Forest Park parents. A gesture only a half-century too late.
Locally, it clearly isn’t good enough for Forest Park’s elementary district to say they communicated the testing information as they always have. It didn’t work. And as the recent and working parents of teenage children, we get all shivery when someone tells us vital information was included in your kid’s “electronic backpack.”
With a new middle-school principal and a new communications director in District 91, there ought to be plenty of manpower next year to send postcards, e-mail the PTO, sponsor sign-up for testing contests, and tie strings on kids’ fingers before they go home as a way to spur more consideration of Proviso township as a worthy option for our young students.