Plummeting enrollment, dismal test scores, and a gaping enthusiasm gap are the reality in Forest Park’s District 91 public elementary schools.
That’s not just our take. It is the view of Supt. Elizabeth Alvarez, the still-new top administrator at this underachieving school district.
Alvarez laid it all out recently in a blunt but hopeful presentation to the school board which hired her early this year as the replacement for Louis Cavallo, who retired after 14 years as superintendent.
This page often lauded the decisions made by Cavallo and the school board. There were determined investments in technology and curriculum, professional development. But nothing ever moved the needle.
The conclusion is that this small, tight district needed dramatically different leadership. The school board found that leader in Alvarez, who is candid, open, visible, driven by data in the service of kids. She is the high wind much more than a fresh breeze, and that was overdue in our elementary schools.
In her early take on a strategic plan, Alvarez acknowledged that enrollment declines must be halted, that adding pre-school students is good, but they are not sticking through later grades. She was direct in acknowledging that academic achievement gaps reflect wide racial disparities. And the charismatic new superintendent made plain that there is a decided lack of enthusiasm in both the parent community and the wider community about its well-financed elementary schools.
The hard road ahead necessarily starts with a blunt admission of the many deficits in this district. We need to listen but not be discouraged. Alvarez brings many qualities to this post. A realistic optimism is at the top.
At the time of her hiring we lauded the school board for making a strong choice and a hard turn toward an intentionally different future. The potential of this school district is vast. It needs a truthteller. It needs an enthusiastic taskmaster. It needs a superintendent who is present to this moment.
Tap Room appeals
The Forest Park Tap Room has every right to appeal the revocation of its liquor license to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. It is a serious consequence for both the owners of the tavern and the property owner at 7321 Madison St. to have that license permanently pulled. It was a cumulative response by the village and Mayor/liquor commissioner Rory Hoskins to a deteriorating situation.
So we will wait and see what that state agency decides after its hearing in December.
That said, we offer our view that the Forest Park Tap Room has been out of bounds virtually since its opening. Large crowds. Too much noise. Inadequate security. Not following the letter of the local law at a time when village government had every reason to enforce its liquor ordinance.
As Hoskins has said, serving alcohol in Forest Park is a privilege not a right.