As the Proviso District 209 high schools continue to roll out their version of a “turnaround agenda,” raising the bar through clearly articulated expectations is often the first step to real change. So it was enjoyable to hear D209 officials light up their food service provider, Aramark, about poor performance and then demand improvement.

“I have zero confidence in this company,” said Proviso East Principal Patrick Hardy, who is generally known for his positive approach to all things educational. So a bad review from Hardy is a really bad review.

“You have a bad track record,” said D209 Supt. Dr. Jesse Rodriguez. “Let’s fix that.”

It should be noted that such remarks were met with loud applause from the audience, so these are not isolated opinions.

Proviso is again working with Aramark for the coming school year, reportedly, because, among other things, state law requires accepting the lowest bid, with a few exceptions. And, with the new academic year just weeks away, a restarted bidding process on such a crunched timeline was impractical and could have left D209 without a food vendor when classes began. But surely there is some provision for “firing” a vendor who isn’t doing the job. If there isn’t, there certainly ought to be. 

Until that happens, notice has at least been served and feet are being held to the fire. Food service is one of those unsexy practical details that is nonetheless essential to creating an atmosphere in which students can thrive academically. When a trip to the cafeteria is a depressing prospect, it doesn’t bode well for student morale.

Let’s hope Aramark rises to raised expectations and, if not, that Proviso quickly finds a better alternative.

Coping with
construction chaos

Business owners aren’t exactly thrilled with the Roosevelt Road construction project. Some are downright skeptical. That’s natural and understandable. But it’s heartening to hear that most are on board and believe the final outcome will be, as several said, “worthwhile.”

The Roosevelt Road business district has always been the “poor stepsister” of Madison Street, but most stakeholders seem to recognize that a more attractive streetscape is a step in the right direction, at least on the north side of the street. The mall has always been an underperformer, and the recent closure of Ultra Foods reinforces that notion. But the village has more influence on the fortunes of the north side of the street and that’s what this project is really about. 

Some of the business owners liken it to medicine — not fun but necessary. In our survey of sentiments in today’s paper, several complained about the mess and the inconvenience but said the project was ultimately worth doing. That kind of attitude bodes well for the Forest Park business community in general. It’s the same mentality one finds on Madison Street where merchants are willing to put up with the creative chaos of Music Fest (this weekend) in order to raise the overall profile of Forest Park and its main street.

Infrastructure upgrades are inseparably tied to business success. It doesn’t guarantee success, but if the enterprises are enterprising enough, a more attractive street certainly helps. 

This too shall pass. And we trust the finished product will also pass muster.