Community members and parents of Forest Park’s District 91 public schools gave up a few hours of their evening on April 12 to gather around and brainstorm on their concerns, hopes, and changes they would like to see at Forest Park Middle School.
Open to all, the community meeting was part of a two-part conversation hosted by the Citizens’ Advisory Council (CAC) with a goal of collecting feedback from all of their community partners as the district moves towards making strategic changes for improvement.
Nurys Uceta-Ramos, family and community engagement manager for D91, said community meetings began last year with a model of “start, stop, continue,” as the district hopes to pinpoint what they should start implementing, what practices to stop, and what to continue to keep them moving forward.
With a group larger than last year, staff asked participants to gather in small groups to discuss concerns they have for their middle schoolers and present their top three topics.
Topics discussed included standard-based grading, social emotional health, opportunities for professional development and additional support for teachers, streamlining communication amongst the school and with parents as well, and opportunities for extracurricular activities.
Shannon Wood, school board member and district parent, said it was important for her to participate as a parent in the event to hear others’ experiences. Wood, whose child will be entering middle school next year, said a big concern for her was equity.
Latoya McRae, who has a sixth grader, was glad others raised concerns regarding staff diversity.
“To increase the workforce of diverse staff and faculty, it is very critical to make sure there is representation amongst a school with children of different backgrounds,” McRae said.
In its second year of implementation, the community meetings are a way for Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Alvarez, who is in her second year with the district, to gain a better understanding of the community’s, along with faculty and staff, needs and desires.
“We wanted to make sure people’s voices are being heard,” Alvarez said. “When I took my seat as superintendent one of the things, I kept hearing was ‘we feel that the district isn’t providing us a voice,’ and so we wanted to make sure this was provided for them.”
The CAC, which serves as the district’s Improvement Planning Committee, will be reviewing the feedback and providing input to the district on ways to move forward with their goals by the 2026-2027 school year. Alvarez said they hope to be able to bring something to the board for discussion around May or June.
“I think our voices were heard tonight,” McRae said. “It was a melting pot of ideas, and we look forward to see what comes out of these recommendations.”
The district hosted another community meeting focused on primary and intermediate grades PK- 5 on April 17 at Betsy Ross, 1315 Marengo Ave, Forest Park.