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By Terry Dean
Oak Park Elementary School District 97 has no plans to cancel their middle school graduations or discontinue hosting both ceremonies at Oak Park and River Forest High School.
OPRF, 201 N. Scoville Ave., has hosted the graduations for both Percy Julian and Gwendolyn Brooks middle schools for more than two decades. But rumors began surfacing within the D97 parent community concerning the graduations — that there were plans to cancel them, which D97 Supt. Al Roberts says is not the case.
But informal talks among low-level staff between the two districts may have added to misinformation circling in the community.
The rumors were apparently serious enough that D97 board President Peter Barber felt compelled to dispel them at a school board meeting two weeks ago. Roberts noted that such rumors have crept up in the past. Barber said he first heard about this latest one from two people while at the Day in Our Village event in early June. Barber said there's been no such discussions at the board table about cancelling graduations.
Steven Isoye, OPRF's superintendent, told Wednesday Journal this week that he and Roberts have talked recently concerning logistical issues incurred at the high school in hosting graduations. The ceremonies are held back-to-back and the transition time in between is a tight squeeze for OPRF, Isoye said. But Isoye said the high school is not planning to host the ceremonies on different nights. Roberts, who also spoke with the Journal this week, said D97 prefers having them held together versus on different nights.
OPRF staff has historically overseen the graduations, but Isoye explained that the high school could use more D97 personnel to help manage the large ceremony. Isoye said he and Roberts will talk further about the logistical issues.
Both superintendents said their districts have had a good working relationship concerning the graduations and will continue to. But Roberts and Isoye acknowledge that there's been some miscommunication between the school districts concerning the middle school graduations.
There apparently was some kind of communication among staffs outside the purview of the superintendents and respective boards. Isoye said he wasn't sure where that communication came from but confirmed there was some level of informal talks.
"I can't nail down exactly where that came from, if it was our B&G department (Buildings and Grounds) and their B&G, or our principal's office and their's," Isoye said, adding that he and Roberts have since talked more formally about the matter.
"When it did come forward, we got in contact with each other on the phone. We didn't think this was a big issue and that it was something we could easily solve," Isoye said. "We're glad to be able to host the graduations at the high school — we're very happy to do that."