Ask anyone who has been around this town for a while, “What’s the biggest impediment to Forest Park progressing much, much further than it already has?” and they will tell you, “Proviso East High School.”
My fellow Forest Parkers, I’m hosting a big meet-and-greet with the Proviso Together candidates for the District 209 high school board (which is responsible for Proviso East) on March 29 because I believe we have an opportunity to transform Proviso East High School and thereby transform Forest Park.
I used to be pessimistic about Proviso East and believed trying to change that institution would be a waste of time, but our neighbors here in Forest Park, Ned Wagner and Claudia Medina, joined together with Theresa Kelly to form a strong minority on the D209 school board and have already had a huge impact by leveraging the hiring of Jesse Rodriguez as D209 superintendent and Patrick Hardy as the principal of Proviso East.
The stars seem to be aligned, so to speak, in a way that makes dreaming about the future of Proviso East no longer an exercise in naïve fantasy.
If we can elect Valtierrez, Alexander, Patterson and Grant — or even one of them — we’ll have a majority on the D209 board, which would guarantee that Proviso East High School will continue to move in the right direction for the first time in 40 years.
I urge you to come to the meet-and-greet on March 29 and bring four friends along with you because once you hear both their intelligence and their passion, you will not only vote for the Proviso Together candidates on April 4, but you will also be energized to tell your friends that we have something special going on here.
This time around, urging friends and neighbors to vote is crucial because as the pie graphs in last week’s Review reveal, when there is no mayoral election in Forest Park, the voter turnout is usually low, and in this election a higher voter turnout is critical.
Haven’t registered to vote? Vanessa Moritz, our village clerk, confirmed that Election Day registration is in effect if you do it at your designated precinct location. Bring two forms of ID that prove where you live, like a utility statement or lease with your current address.
Connie Brown gave the following information about voting early: “Early voting starts on Monday, March 20 through Monday, April 3. You are able to vote early in Maybrook, Bellwood and Melrose Park between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday-Saturday.”
There are five important reasons for the whole village to vote on or before April 4:
1. Our children deserve a better high school.
2. Our parents deserve a quality high school so they don’t have to pay for a private one.
3. Forest Park loses too many parents when the kids approach eighth grade, right at the time those parents are ready to become leaders in Forest Park.
4. Our property values will soar.
5. There is a political machine in Proviso Township that has lots of money to spend, has slated four candidates opposing the Proviso Together slate and has not been the best steward of our tax dollars.
Exhibit A: An article dated May 6, 2016 on the Chronicle Media website reported that “A lawsuit against the Proviso Township High School District 209 School Board contains evidence that both the … school superintendent [Nettie Collins Hart who preceded the current superintendent] and the former board president [who is not aligned with the Proviso Together group] signed a multimillion-dollar building repairs contract without the knowledge or formal approval of the school board.” The unauthorized contract was given to Franklin Park-based Restore Construction, which has given thousands of dollars to the Melrose Park-based political machine, which is supporting a slate of candidates opposing Proviso Together. “School board presidents have no legal authority to authorize large payments on behalf of a school district without a formal vote by the school board, according to the Illinois school law.”
Exhibit B: Until last year, Proviso East students were using textbooks that were 20 years old.
Exhibit C: According to a front page article in last week’s Review, the slate of candidates (Proviso First, which opposes Proviso Together) have received thousands of campaign dollars from sources outside of Proviso Township.
I have friends who are cynical about any kind of voting and say, “Voting doesn’t do any good; it won’t make a difference.” Friends and neighbors, that might be true about the gerrymandered congressional districts we’re stuck with for the time being, but our neighbors, Claudia Medina and Ned Wagner, have shown us that ordinary citizens with little money can make change happen.
People like Connie Brown, who, behind the scenes, is managing the Proviso Together campaign, and Frank Hanson, who is spending weekends knocking on doors, and many other ordinary folks like you and me are making this dream a reality.
I’m inspired, and that’s why I’m investing my own time and money in hosting this event at the park building on Harrison Street on March 29.
Hope to see you there.