There was a superintendent of the Proviso Township High Schools, and there have been a good many of them over recent years, who confided to a local newspaper that all would be well in these failed public high schools if only 300 students could be permanently expelled.
You bet, we were told, it would be a dandy public high school if only 10 percent of the student body were turned out onto the street, left to their own devices. We mentioned it would be something less than a public school if administrators got to cherry pick who could attend. The superintendent agreed, acknowledging it was a fantasy.
But judging by the way discipline was dished out at Proviso East in the following years it was more reality than fantasy. The district did not permanently expel endless numbers of students but in the 2016 school year it did pass out 648 suspensions. Some of those were in-school suspensions, some out-of-school suspensions. Any way you parse those numbers, it reflected full failure in this district.
Now things have changed markedly and for the better. In the school year that ended in the spring, just 249 suspensions were issued at East. That is a 62 percent decline.
It doesn’t mean there wasn’t bad behavior. It doesn’t mean there weren’t consequences. It does mean the entire approach to teaching our young people how to behave shifted from purely punitive to what has come to be called, a little grandly, restorative justice. Mainly it means creating new mechanisms, from teacher training to adding “interventionists,” which bring students who are acting out to account for those actions — mainly disruption, profanity, verbal fights. This process brings two students shouting down the hallway directly into a process of talking it through, of peer counseling.
Tossing students who are not succeeding out on the street did not ever result in a better outcome. Created more isolation and less accountability.
Who do we have to thank for this? Well, not surprisingly, Kimberly Lightford, our local state senator, drove statewide change on school suspensions. She forced every school district in the state to radically shift its discipline model. And at Proviso high schools the statewide change synced up with a new school board and administration that saw the damage its archaic discipline system was creating.
The village treasurer
Who knew? Forest Park has a village treasurer.
And now, following the recent death of the beloved Andy Collis, it has a new village treasurer. Turns out Collis, who everyone thought the world of, has been the treasurer of our small burg for decades. He collected a very modest stipend and we suppose he signed some papers now and again.
Now Forest Park has a new village treasurer, duly appointed by the village council on Aug. 27. Her name is Georgia Rombakis Tsaganos. Most people paying attention to social media will know her simply as Gia Rombakis. A teacher the past several years, Rombakis Tsaganos will also, we’re confident, be an able signer of papers.
We remain uncertain why Forest Park has a village treasurer, why it’s not the village’s finance director or the village clerk. Life is full of mysteries.