Forest Park’s public elementary school board has threaded the needle in its generous and enthused contract extension for Supt. Elizabeth Alvarez. At its October meeting, the District 91 board unanimously approved a new four-year contract for Alvarez.

There are deserved pay increases built in as well as typical, but we find extravagant, perks around insurance, pensions, and ups and extras for a cellphone and business travel. No doubt becoming a school superintendent anywhere in this moment is a lucrative gig.

That said, like the school board we are impressed by what Alvarez has accomplished in less than 18 months. Building consolidation and realignment was a bold and necessary step. Bigger though than just closing Grant-White was the earnest success of her administration in bringing parents and faculty into support of what is a jolting loss in a community. That took skills that will continue to pay off as this shrinking school district makes more hard choices in its efforts to grow again.

The District 91 school board has a history of falling in love with its superintendents. We’ve watched it since the 1980s when Joe Scolire was the longtime loved, and mainly unchallenged, superintendent. Most recently Louis Cavallo served long with a mostly acquiescent school board at his elbow.

That is not a healthy situation. This needs to be a partnership: school board members with strong community ties and a critical eye to hold the administration accountable, and a vital administration that brings expertise, educational innovation and appreciation for its community.

Happily that is the moment we are in. This is a thoughtful, rooted school board which is squarely facing up to the very real challenges its schools are facing. And Alvarez has a mix of essential skills, from data-based decision-making to an equity and inclusion focus and, critically, people skills that draw people in and lets them be heard.

Things we like

Forest Park is getting a “community fridge.” Led by volunteers, one of whom happens to be a village commissioner, this is a needed food-security initiative in these uncertain moments. We can now report that when it opens, the fridge will be housed outside the Community Center where it will be an interesting companion to the center’s Forest Park Food Pantry.

The D209 Scholarship project is bringing back its Great Chefs: Educated Palates fundraising event. The goal is to bring in $25,000 for the scholarship fund that propels graduates of the Proviso Township High Schools on to college. 

These students need our love and support and here’s a great and fun way to accomplish it. Nov. 10 on Madison Street. Be there.

Starship, the classic Forest Park sandwich and catering (and let’s not forget soup) spot, is turning 45 this week. 

Great food of course. But what a sense of place and welcome across those decades. Thanks to Paul McKenna and Henry Laskowski for always being there and always being great.