It is a wonderful feeling to experience weekly the abiding interest that Wednesday Journal and its editorial board show in all things Oak Park and River Forest High School. That change is in the air is nothing new to anyone involved in the school today. And the overall direction of that change – to positively advance the academic performance of groups and individuals who have performed poorly historically while simultaneously bettering the academic experience of all – is universally shared.
Supt. Attila Weninger deserves praise for his tireless work ethic and his diligence in reaching out to the community, hosting a summit with both feeder grade school districts and working to forge a common goal among all three districts. He is also creating new outreach efforts and strengthening existing groups that strive to improve African-American students’ experience at OPRF.
However, I ask the Journal’s editorial board what true support it provides Dr. Weninger by castigating faculty leadership as hidebound and resistant to change? Anyone who wants to influence decision making tries to be persuasive and inclusive in policy deliberations, not divisive and accusatory. Shockingly, the average term for a superintendent is 2.7 years. This truth was brought back by a board member who attended a national conference held late this spring. Truly, the job of a superintendent is difficult even in the best of times.
Cheap shots in the editorial fly in various directions. [A vote for Weninger, Our Views, Aug. 26] Weninger is accused of holding a grudge without any evidence provided; the previous board is tarnished with running a poorly managed selection process. The basic thrust of the editorial is a slam at faculty leadership, again without explanation or detail. If Weninger is the leader now required to counterbalance a resistant faculty, tarnishing him and the process that chose him is a strange way to make your point.
The Journal has every right to voice its position on any aspect of our public high school that it cares to enumerate. However, an approach that emphasizes the need for our entire community to embrace the change required to eliminate the academic gap would be more useful.
The high school has historically tried to address inequitable academic performance in a piece-meal and parochial manner. The lack of results speaks to the merits of that approach. Success now will require all stakeholders to apply a more global vision that includes initiatives that predate a student’s first day of ninth grade. (Big kudos to administration, faculty, staff and student mentors on this year’s freshmen opening day experience.) Work being done by the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education is tremendous example of the vision required; grants from the Village of Oak Park and District 200 helped finance the strategic plan unveiled in January.
I am disappointed that such a major stakeholder as the Wednesday Journal cares to view the discussion surrounding the superintendent’s contract in a zero-sum framework. Let’s elevate the dialogue, forgo the divisiveness and honestly debate which policies and administrators can move us forward most effectively.
Oak Park resident Terry Finnegan is a District 200 school board member.