To better understand the needs of Forest Park children and their parents, District 91 Superintendent Louis Cavallo is bringing back a conversation series he first began eight years ago.
“Coffee with Dr. Cavallo” is a four-part discussion series he created in order to informally meet with parents and understand the ever-changing needs and wants of Forest Park school families.
Cavallo discontinued the series due to dwindling attendance.
“When I first started here as superintendent eight years ago,” he recalled, “I held these coffees as a way of getting to know the community and listen to parents about their perception of the schools. At first, several parents attended, but over time, attendance dropped off. I want to again be available to parents and hear their questions and concerns.”
After discussions with other administrators on how to better engage with the community, Cavallo decided to bring the program back to assist in meeting that goal.
On April 20, he held the first session at Grant-White Elementary. Cavallo said he spoke with two parents in the morning, one of whom was a school employee.
“We had a very good conversation and it went very well,” he said. “I suspect the turnout may be a little better on Friday with the parents of the younger children.”
“Coffee with Dr. Cavallo” sessions begin at 7:30 a.m., with the superintendent at one of the schools ready to talk with parents as they drop their children off at school, and last until no more families have questions. He says meeting parents when they already will be dropping off their children seemed like an easier option than asking parents to meet when they may be unavailable due to other obligations.
“The idea was to be available when the parents are already there instead of having them come to a special meeting,” he said. “People are busy and do not necessarily want to attend another meeting.”
Cavallo said there are no specific topics of discussion. Rather, he is open to listening and answering whatever questions families may have for him.
Additionally, he decided to hold a session at each district campus to provide the opportunity of being accessible and available to all parents of the district.
Overall, his goal is to encourage genuine and open communication between the administration and the community. He hopes to keep the series going as long as parents wish.
“If it is successful and parents want me to continue, I will be there as often as they would like,” he said. “It is one thing to say, ‘I have an open door policy,’ but that is only useful if people come to the door. Instead of having them come to me, I am going to them.”
The second session took place on April 22 at Garfield Elementary. Upcoming “Coffee With Dr. Cavallo” sessions will take place before school on April 27 at Betsy Ross Elementary and April 29 at Field-Stevenson and Forest Park Middle School.