Going back a couple of decades — and trust us, we do — the problem on the school board at Forest Park’s District 91 public elementary schools was that board members went on the board and never, ever came off. People served term after term, ran unopposed, every one of them a sincere soul, but it led to stagnation.
These days on this board we could use a little stagnation. Over the past decade we have lost track of how many mid-term resignations we’ve reported on this critical board. Too many. And most often when the reason for the resignation was that the school board member had school-age children and was leaving town. Not a show of faith in this district.
This all comes to mind as last week the school board again filled a mid-term vacancy and, happily, for once, it stirred a little tension among parents who are following the appointment process closely.
Greg Mitchell was the unanimous choice of the school board as it acted on the recommendation of two of its members who had interviewed each of the five residents who had come forward for consideration. The rub on Mitchell is that he is more or less a newcomer to the village, has older children who obviously did not attend school here and, up till now, he has not been active in the district or the village.
In an interview with the Review and in a lengthy Facebook post responding to critics, Mitchell acquitted himself very well, first acknowledging the basis for the criticism and then explaining his professional background, including graduation from West Point and a distinguished military career. His explanation, that he and his wife have come to much appreciate Forest Park and wanted to become involved, rang true to us.
That said, we fully agree it is problematic that this school board, in a district that is majority black, 13 percent Latinx, 4 percent Asian, and just 22 percent white, turned its back on an invested Latinx candidate in the group.
Our advice is that Forest Park welcomes Mitchell (who will have to run for election anyhow next spring) and then we focus on finding vital, diverse and committed candidates for the other two slots open on the board in April. How about we aim high and hope for an actual contested election where sincere debate raises real issues.
We have watched with astonishment and enthusiasm these past three years as citizen activists have captured the school board at the long-troubled Proviso Township High Schools. They have made change real and rapid.
We need to see that same energy and intensity brought home to D91. This is a good school district with frayed connections to its town. This is the moment to change that.
This article has been updated to reflect that the Forest Park District 91 school board is not all-white.