By John Hubbuch
Mann Elementary School is once again in the paper. This time the principal resigned, but it seemed like he was going to get fired. No one really knows what is going on except the superintendent and the board, and they ain't talking. Where is Edward Snowden when we really need him?
The previous principal left because of improprieties involving the annual standardized tests, which is a little like Barack Obama stealing votes from Romney in Illinois. He would win anyway, and Mann would have had the highest test scores without any hanky-panky.
Mann is a lot of people's Schadenfreude wet dream. Mann's misery is their pleasure. The stereotype of rich entitled parents and their spoiled kids suffering failures, albeit small ones, is somehow satisfying in an admittedly mean-spirited way.
I was a Mann parent from 1984 to 1995. My three sons are graduates of Mann Elementary School. They had a great educational and social experience. I believe that whatever success they have had in life was in part due to the education they received there. They probably would have had a similar quality education at any of the other Oak Park elementary schools, but that is a road they did not take.
Now I live back on the south side of town. We are in the Irving district where Marsha volunteers. It seems like a great school.
Our oldest son started at Longfellow School, but when he was in the second grade, we moved into the Mann district. We did so in part because we wanted a larger house, but there were lots of larger houses in other school districts. One of the main reasons we moved to Mann was because it had the highest test scores of all the elementary schools in the village. We considered River Forest, where the schools had even higher test scores than Mann, but we liked Oak Park's diversity even if Mann wasn't all that diverse. And Mann was cheaper. Test scores weren't the only consideration, but there was something comforting about sending your kids to the school with the highest test scores.
Things don't seem to have changed much since my children were in elementary school. Mann still has the highest test scores, the most expensive homes, the highest taxes, the least crime, and it is still, by far, the whitest. In some ways Mann is the perfect place to sort out the essence of Oak Park. I'm guessing there are a lot of us who move and stay here because we like and support the diversity. We like telling our friends and ourselves that we live in Oak Park, not River Forest. But we would find it comforting to live in the section of town that is in fact closest to River Forest, where the test scores are higher and the crime is lower. Diverse, but not that diverse. See "Goldilocks."
I suspect a lot of Oak Parkers would like to send their kids to Mann Elementary School if they could afford to — and if they were honest.