For a couple of years now, we've been writing about rowdy funerals. These are the riotous processions, mostly from the city, heading west to Forest Park's multiple cemeteries or through town en route to Hillside and its cemeteries. In a time when all of us are being rightly challenged to broaden our definitions of cultural norms, these funeral treks are often fully out of control, a threat to participants, a threat to those on the sidelines, a threat to police who are trying to keep the lid on.
As political leaders, public safety personnel, and funeral directors have begun to meet in past months, there was some expectation of a collaborative plan that might lead to at least being able to anticipate timing of the processions and some agreed upon enforcement measures. Recording license plate numbers and issuing local ordinance violations was one modest idea being carried out by Forest Park police.
All of that goes somewhat by the wayside though in the aftermath of the June 3 madness that took place once the mourners gathered for the burial at Forest Home Cemetery. Forest Park police arrested one man after he reportedly displayed a handgun. But witnesses report that perhaps 10 people had guns drawn during the burial. No shots were fired.
Police Chief Tom Aftanas said he believes the burial was for a person who died by gun violence.
Rightly, Forest Park police focused on clearing the scene as quickly as possible rather than on more arrests. But what are the steps to come? No simple answers, but also no way such outrageous behavior can be countenanced.
Principal of the thing
Principals of two of the three high schools in Proviso Township had their contracts extended for two years recently by the administration and school board. Only seems like a big deal when you look back just a handful of years to the era when superintendents and principals in this district came and went (and sometimes came again) in a chaotic charade.
You can't have momentum until you have stability. You can't have a vision until you have a trusted foundation. You can't execute a plan until you are a known and respected leader. We have over years heard people disparage principals as placeholders, promoted Peter Principle-like until they are meek and inoffensive. And sure, we've all seen a few burnouts and flameouts in principal offices.
However in PMSA's Dr. Bessie Karvelas and East's Dr. Patrick Hardy, District 209 has strong leaders. The contract status of West Principal Dr. Nia Abdullah will be discussed by the board this week.
We try not to play favorites but Proviso East is the school we cover most thoroughly and the school that hit the deepest bottom under previous administrations. By our observation Patrick Hardy is a charismatic, determined and connective leader. Students, parents, staff and visitors respond to his energy and ideas.
Stronger days are coming to our public high schools and, in that process, better days are ahead for Forest Park.