Your Oak Park and River Forest pre-election round-up

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:

If you're so critical of OPRF's board why ... : Why, I've been asked this week, if the Journal is always harping on the school board at the high school would the paper endorse the three incumbents?

Excellent question, and we thank you for paying attention to our harping. We've—and this is the collective "we" of our four person editorial board—noticed over time that no elected board is perfect. Even a school board we like and admire is going to make some choices we find flawed. So it has been on the OPRF board. When it came time for the endorsements, we reflected on the big picture of what the incumbents—John Allen, Ralph Lee and Sharon Patchak-Layman—have accomplished in the past four years and we looked at situations they inherited.

There are three criticisms we've focused on concerning OPRF. 1) The fund balances they've run up are enormous and unfair to strapped taxpayers. But the choices that led to this overtaxing bonanza were made by previous boards not these incumbents. 2) The last teachers' contract was a doozy. Just might be related to the absurd fund balances. The previous school board, literally on its way out the door, gave away the store and wrapped it in a five-year bow. Not the work of the current incumbents. 3) The high school is suing the village and District 97 in a dispute over the TIF fund. This is a crazy distraction when what voters clearly want is for local governments to work collaboratively to save us all money. This suit lands squarely on the heads of the incumbents and their board colleagues. Shame on them.

The biggest challenge the school faces though is one of academics and culture. This institution is change averse in a time when notable change is essential.

The achievement gap, the technology gap, the differentiation gap are all real. Have been for years. Quietly, and largely behind the scenes, the incumbents set the stage for the previous superintendent and now his successor to put new people in a raft of key positions. New administrators—principal and assistant principals, HR, technology, special ed—and new academic division chairs—math, English, fine and applied arts—will be the people to drive the coming change.

The incumbents, in my view, set the stage for this and they deserve to be reelected to see the changes come to fruition.

If you elect me ... : It's a strange one. Julie McCarthy Grossman filed to run for the park board in Oak Park. Then a few weeks ago she announced she was dropping out though it was too late to come off the ballot. Last week McCarthy Grossman and her running mates seemed to imply that she was still running and said that if she wins, but only if she wins, then she will tell us all the real reason she dropped out. My suggestion is that we don't elect her and then find some way to stifle our intense curiosity over her intentions.

Miss Moe: Nice that the River Forest village board is honoring the long dead Virginia Moe with a street sign outside her beloved Trailside Museum. Set aside that she got pretty rigid and awfully cranky in her final decades of running the nature preserve. Miss Moe was still the heart and soul of the place. Which begs the question: Why 20 years ago did the Forest Preserve District rename the place the Harold Tyrrell Trailside Museum and not the Virginia Moe Trailside Museum. Not too late to make this right.

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