The connections between the parents of students with special needs and a school district are often intense. The social and academic challenges are complex, the advocacy parents bring is urgent, the relationship between teacher, parent and student can bring an intimacy that goes beyond a typical school and home situation.
All of that played out last week at a meeting of the District 91 Forest Park public school board. As part of its consent agenda, the school board was ready to approve the resignations of two special ed teachers at Betsy Ross School. But a group of parents whose special needs children have bonded with those teachers were not content to let these resignations/dismissals pass without strong comment.
The outcome did not change. These teachers will depart the district this summer. The school board did not comment. Supt. Lou Cavallo declined to directly address the upset of some 15 parents and students who attended the usually quiet board meeting. He rightly cited the privacy of personnel decisions under ongoing contracts between the district and its teachers.
The Review properly reported on the upset exchange at the public meeting.
So every player took their assigned role. The parents lodged sincere protests. The school board assented to the resignations. The superintendent stood by the contract. The local paper reported the news.
The question is what happens going forward. We have watched in many school districts over many decades as the relationship between special needs parents and special ed departments has fractured in a volatile fashion. It’s emotional and it’s painful for all involved. Who in D91 is going to work to rebuild trust? We have lauded this district over many years for its educational initiatives. Our ongoing criticism is that, for a small district, it is poor at communicating and relationship building.
The immediate response of the district isn’t encouraging. Perhaps, in a moment of pique, both the superintendent and the school board president vow to stop talking to the Review. Not much of a solution to a longstanding communication problem.
West Loop comes
Forest Park’s development future is getting a prestigious shot in the arm with news that a premier Chicago apartment developer is proposing a strong project for a Madison Street site that has withered as a stand-alone bar/restaurant location.
Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group — yes, Jerry Reinsdorf is a principal — has plans before the Plan Commission to construct a 36-unit, four-story apartment and commercial project on the vacant site of Molly Malone’s at 7652 W. Madison. Take a look at its website and you’ll see a batch of high-end projects in the exploding West Loop.
The proposal on Madison confirms the vison of the remaking of that stretch of the street in a streetscaping project driven by Forest Park and also benefitting River Forest. With a new TIF, River Forest is actively buying property to boost its side of the street. This apartment project would be a great outcome for a key parcel in Forest Park.