It would be an understatement to say that all the energy Forest Park could muster toward public education over the past 30 months has been directed like a fire hose toward our District 209 Proviso high schools. And, by golly, it worked. Together with like-minded parents across the Proviso communities, Forest Parkers have brought focus and energy to our public high schools.
Now, can Forest Parkers bring some of that same juice to our District 91 public elementary schools?
In the April 4 election at D209, there was an epic battle for control of this district. But in our small D91 corner of Proviso, we saw two worrisome things on Election Day. The race for the elementary school board was uncontested. Never good. But more remarkably, six of the seven seats on the school board were simultaneously up for election or re-election. The whole point of holding staggered elections with a portion of an elected board up for a vote every two years is to create board stability and continuity to face up to complex issues.
But a recurring pattern of resignations from this board, too often as young parents on the board leave town, set the stage for this massive but uncontested contest.
This is an unhealthy situation that reflects some unhealthy characteristics in the district and on the board. It is time to address them and bring a renewed focus and energy to our elementary and middle schools.
Over the years, we have lauded D91, its administrators, and teachers for creativity and unusual openness to real change. Most school districts suffer from stagnation but not our elementary schools. Generous Forest Park taxpayers have provided more than adequate financial resources to the district. And district leaders, certainly in partnership with the school board, have reinvested in new curriculum initiatives, new technology, new learning spaces.
We support the district leadership in its welcoming approach to diversity. We share the skepticism over standardized test results as an effective measure of student progress or teacher success. We are always interested when, as last week in his State of the District address, Supt. Louis Cavallo talks up ideas such as year-round school, a simple idea 75 years overdue.
And obviously we agree with Cavallo when he says, “I’ve never been more optimistic about the high school.”
Now we need more of that optimism, grit, joy and determination turned loose at D91. We’re looking for both the school board and parents to lead this charge and for Cavallo and his team to go somewhat against their grain and welcome it, encourage it, let it wash over them.
There are so many good things about this school district, so much to be proud of, so much to build on, so many challenges and opportunities to build from. Let’s talk and debate and battle. Let’s nurture the grassroots that Forest Parkers have just shown to be so powerful and so inclusive.