Though it may be until the spring when Oak Park and River Forest High School hires someone to lead its special education department, healthy – truly functional – planning for such a next step ought to begin now.

Just as interviews for the job likely will start during the holiday break, so surely should there be a watch for both a strong department leader and a consensus builder. The longstanding tension between the special education department and a vocal group of parents has not dissipated.

Without proper management, this is a situation that will only escalate. But there’s an opportunity here for the school to address these tensions in a holistic manner. Before these disputes again play out in the courts and in front of the state board of education, the school administration ought to bring in a mediator. That person needs to be someone who will hear out both sides on such matters as discipline, the achievement gap, and attention to students’ individual needs.

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