Maybe it has happened before that new school superintendents have started on exactly the same day at both Oak Park and River Forest High School and the District 97 elementary schools.

We choose to believe it is kismet. Let’s take advantage.

While their respective school boards may have a few items to put on Al Roberts and Steve Isoye’s to-do lists, we’re happy to chime in with our advice and our expectations.

Match a sense of humor with a thick skin. These are great, complex, demanding villages. Some of the heat is pure nonsense and theatre. The real heat, though, comes from passionate hopes for these schools, for what they can accomplish to move the villages to their potential, for what they must accomplish for each young child.

Make all of your efforts more consciously open and transparent than the secretive processes that brought you each to our towns.

There’s odd baggage between the elementary and high school districts. Fingers get pointed over the achievement gap. High school teachers get paid more. The superintendents haven’t gotten along especially well. This is literally a new day. Together with River Forest’s bright new, but now the veteran, elementary superintendent Tom Hagerman, these three men ought to make collaboration and innovation a priority. Curriculum, purchasing, staff development, data sharing, annual joint board meetings, discipline codes. There are numerous ways our public schools can and should align goals and efforts.

Both superintendents need to connect better with their staffs – administrative and faculty – and the community than did their predecessors. At OPRF especially, though, better internal relations cannot slow the push for genuine, substantive change.

District 97 has to pass a tax hike referendum next April. Roberts will play an essential role in setting the stage.

OPRF has got to drop its absurd lawsuit against the village. Bringing a new superintendent into this morass is enormously counterproductive to the relationships Isoye needs to actively build with other governments. End this now.

Teacher and other staff contracts are pending in the next two to four years. A cap on all salaries and a hard look at the benefits package are unavoidable in these cash-strapped villages.

Don’t forget that this is about kids not grownups.

Remember point one about the sense of humor.

A serious crime

Drunks using their cars to intentionally hit bicyclists is not a new sport society would like to encourage. Yet what was the message recently when two men convicted of doing just that received less than wrist-slap sentences from a Cook County court?

We join the Active Transportation Alliance and any number of Oak Park cyclists – one of the victims was a 51-year-old Oak Park man – in expressing outrage that Judge Carol Kipperman was so lenient with these men. One got 10 days in jail. The other received a sentence of two years probation and community service.

Think of it. Two drunks. One car. Eric Fabian is behind the wheel and takes out the cyclist from Oak Park. They stop the car. Switch seats. And then Armando Reza gets behind the wheel and goes after a 33-year-old bike rider from Brookfield.

This is serious, unconscionable violence. It should not be tolerated and effectively with these pathetic sentences it was condoned.

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