The Oak Park way

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

What could he possibly mean? To "Oak Park it." I don't believe that Peter Barber, president of the board of District 97 elementary schools, was handing out hosannas recently when he talked about the district adopting the International Baccalaureate program and strongly suggested it was probably a pretty good program just as it is. The implication was that Oak Park couldn't improve the concept and might actually damage it through committee work and other well-intentioned tweaks.

The nerve of the guy.

Barber urged his board, other boards, and everyday citizens to accept that good ideas can be hatched outside our borders, that we could accept an idea intact and implement it, and that it might actually be the best thing to do.

Well, I'd start by suggesting that "baccalaureate" is a hell of a tough word to spell. I'm not even sure I've got it down correctly yet and I've been working at it. So you could start right out by calling it the International Smart Persons Program. Or we could come up with something snappier if we got a small group together around a table. I'm thinking about an acronym that spells out something that means, like, smart people.

We could call it S.M.A.R.T. — Super Mentally Attenuated Reach (for the) sTars. Or something. I'm just thinking out loud.

So, yes, clearly we could improve on the International Baccalaureate program. Or, as they call it in Switzerland where this whole notion started back in 1968, "programme." First thing the Oak Park version of IB ought to teach is spelling. I'm pretty sure it is just "program."

Barber didn't specify other examples of his neighbors screwing up allegedly great concepts. But I can guess at some of the things he might criticize.

There's a lot of pressure on Oak Park to relent on the left-sided exits off the Ike. Traffic experts claim our exits are 49 percent more dangerous than the more typical right-hand exits. Well, clearly the problem isn't with the exits on the left. The problem is that people are just used to all those right-hand exits. We need to get all those other exits shifted to the middle where they belong.

The elementary schools have recently invested a cool half-million in a new computer software system called FastForward. Like that IB thing, it is supposed to help our kids get smarter. At least that is what Supt. Al Roberts claims — though I'm not sure why we are giving his opinion so much credence. He's just a man.

A lot of Oak Parkers simply have this feeling — OK, call it intuition — that rolling FastForward out across all the schools all at once and telling the teachers they have to use it might be too much. They think Thursday is a good day for FastForward.

Over at village hall, we are in the midst of this sort of half-assed strike. Strike for a day, work for a few. It's turning into an innovative three-day weekend experiment. But partly the strike is over the village's insistence that merit pay continue to be part of the contract. But the nice man from the union objects because not all of his members would get merit pay increases. He's got a point and it might hurt your self-esteem if you didn't get recognized for that merit raise. So let's do merit pay the Oak Park way and give merit raises to everybody. People are going to feel just super.

If this sort of fine-tuning is considered "Oak Parking it" then so be it.

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