It has taken a long while, but school districts and other local government entities neighboring Forest Park have turned their focus to matters of equity in the services they offer residents. And now, with a contract signed with the National Equity Project, our District 91 schools are on that worthy path.

What’s the difference between equity in education and equality? Equity is the recognition that in the past, that in the present not all students were afforded the same opportunity to succeed. Achieving equity then requires two things. The individuals and entities in a school institution must acknowledge that past inequities are real and had consequences. And then there must be a refocusing of resources to provide extra help for those who have been disadvantaged historically.

We applaud the District 91 school board and administration for recognizing this reality, for taking on the hard personal work of acknowledging personal racial biases, for stating plainly that there is institutional racism baked into our schools.

Only when such admissions are made can we begin the cultural changes necessary to move our schools on a path toward equity.

A quirk in the contract

Likely not the way you’d like to be hired as the head coach of a high school football team. But Oliver Speller is in as the third head coach of the Proviso East Pirates in just five years, after a reluctant school board last week concluded a provision in the current contract with teachers gave them no alternative.

And make no mistake, both board members and community members were certain they had a better alternative as coach in Scottie Ware, the successful sophomore football coach at the school.

But that pesky faculty contract, ratified just last year, specifies that all things being equal – coaching experience, attentiveness to player academics, football know-how – that the edge in hiring must go to the faculty member. Speller is a biology teacher at East. Ware is not on the faculty but rather a very active and visible coach of multiple sports at the school.

Add that Ware coached his sophomores to a 7-2 record last year while the varsity hit the two-year mark without a win, add that Ware has the much sought after status of Maywood native, and you understand the strong support he won from community members and some board members.

We question the logic of forcing the school to hire the community’s second choice as coach. But the fix will have to come in a revision to the next teacher contract. In this circumstance, the district did what it was required to do.

It was good to see the passion of community members for one of its own, good to see board members focused on listening to community frustrations and being as responsive as they could be, good to see two strong and experienced candidates seek this post.

Now we need to see the entire Pirate community unite behind a new coach as Proviso East seeks an overdue turnaround in its football program.