Jack Crowe recently recounted his negative experience with Teacher X [The story of Teacher X in Oak Park, Viewpoints, Feb. 16]. Let me share our family's experiences with teachers A to Z in District 97.
Our experiences with District 97 teachers have been tremendous, starting with the nurturing kindergarten classroom followed by a dynamic multi-age first- and second-grade classroom. We have had new teachers who brought new ideas and energy to their teaching, as well as veteran teachers who willingly embraced new technologies and new teaching concepts into their styles. These teachers were quick to understand the strengths of our children and work with them when they struggled. In middle school, we have been thrilled with the styles of teaching that both our children have experienced. Our children write a weekly blog for book reports and must also comment on their fellow students' blogs. They have collaborated with students internationally to create a website that has won international awards. We have teachers who know how to use new technologies and integrate them into their teaching as well!
Just for the sake of calculation, Jack, I will assume that you have had at least two children experience all of the grade levels of District 97, as we will have by next year. If this is the case, then your children will have been taught by about 75 teachers combined. These students have had educators who are passionate about teaching children and are exceptionally qualified to do so (just look at the number of Those Who Excel and Golden Apple nominees and winners in our Bright Red Apple district). Your students and ours have experienced music, the arts and literature. They can participate in sports, robotics, social-service clubs and other activities that can nurture a young interest. Which one of those teachers inspired your child's life and future or ignited a passion to pursue? Why not write about the benefits of merit pay based on the fact that we have a number of exceptional teachers who are worthy of merit pay?
Yet, our focus needs to be on what the qualified teaching staff of District 97 offers our children on a daily basis. I support this district and its upcoming referendum. Failure to pass the referendum means that all the learning opportunities that your children enjoyed will be gone. In fact, the district has already begun handing out pink slips to most of the teachers who are involved in the activities mentioned above. What made this district have the reputation as an exceptional place to learn will be lost.
The district has continually made budget cuts, has investigated and corrected areas of mismanagement and fiscal transgressions, and has yet to ask for any increase in taxes since 1989. What other major taxing body can say that?
We moved to Oak Park because we knew its school system to be challenging and forward-thinking, and that is exactly what our children experienced with their teachers. Although our time in District 97 schools is coming to a close at the end of next year, we support this referendum. Jack, your bio states that you are a third-generation Oak Parker. Don't your grandchildren (and ours) deserve the same exceptional schooling your children have had? It's now time for this generation to step up and preserve what's best about District 97, ensuring a quality, well-rounded education for the generations to follow. Vote yes on the referendum.
Marcia Frank has lived in Oak Park for 17 years with her husband and two children. She is a former member of the District 97 school board and is currently employed as the executive director of Pro Musica Youth Chorus.