This is a moment to celebrate. With Forest Park in the lead, villages across Proviso Township last week broke free of the political machines that have, for decades, controlled and laid low our public high schools. The parent-led, grassroots movement of Proviso Together swept this critical election and now its representatives have full control of this school board.

Two things: First, the battle is not over. Political forces regroup. Expect a highly contested election in two years. 

And second, while winning the election is energizing, don’t stop paying attention, don’t stop showing up, don’t assume this new board won’t make mistakes. The issues facing this district are complex. There are no quick fixes. The foundation schools that feed this district are largely broken and some are still politically controlled. When expected failure is removed as an option, the faculty is still unproven. Parents have proven they can elect; now they have to prove assertive as ongoing advocates. Winning is heady; this new board needs to show it can manage from a position of full control.

We’re hopeful, not giddy. Time to work.

Forward, not back

On a single ballot last week, Forest Park got a look at its last-gasp past and at its open-ended future. And both views were provided courtesy of our long-abused and abusive Proviso High Schools.

Astoundingly, 89 percent of Forest Park voters backed the progressive parent-led revolution of the Proviso Together slate. And 300 more voters turned out in Forest Park than four years ago, the last non-mayoral race. Those are the numbers that secured the sweep for Proviso Together. Those are the numbers that dropped the hammer on the politically connected incumbents and drove them from power.

On the very same ballot, Forest Parkers, many of them confused over just what the three peculiar advisory referenda were all about, were asked if the village should work “to remove the Forest Park students from Proviso High School District 209.” In addition to being astoundingly oddly worded, this advisory vote was merely a placeholder intended to clog out a legitimate ballot initiative on video gaming. And the political gamesmanship of the village’s old-guard pols worked on that front. There was no room left on the ballot for a gaming vote.

But the contrast in the two ballot measures was profound. Mark Hosty, former village commissioner, bar owner/manager, gaming proponent, and once a voice for the impossible notion of Forest Park seceding from the Proviso schools, put forward the retro and isolationist advisory referendum on leaving the district. That is a mindset that has only damaged Forest Park over the decades, and it offers no path forward. 

Then consider that Forest Park’s new wave leadership — non-political, pragmatic, idealistic — birthed the grassroots movement that put three progressive leaders on the D209 board two years ago and now has replaced the final four holdovers of a gloomy past. 

We choose new. New alliances. New determination. New focus on the future. And we wait hopefully for “new” to stretch out across Forest Park, to reset our thinking and our future. 

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