Supt. Al Roberts has been talking for a while now about reinventing District 97s two middle schools for the 21st century. What had been vague talk about academic rigor and new technology is now coming into focus as Roberts unfurls a wave of change.

Start with the once-in-a-generation opportunity to launch new principals simultaneously at Percy Julian and Gwendolyn Brooks. We believe in principals and the powerful role they play in shaping a school. Having started the first of July, Todd Fitzgerald and Mike Michowski will play large roles in implementing Roberts’ vision.

The pieces of that vision are coming clearer as the school board first OKs plans for implementing the International Baccalaureate program in the middle school and then the schools announce a new method of integrating students with varied academic proficiency in a program they call “clustering.” Add the district-wide expansion of the FastForward software teaching tools and you have a much clearer sense of what the superintendent has planned.

In passing a tax referendum just over a year ago, Oak Park voters gave this school district the resources not just to maintain but to invest in change. The middle schools are the logical place to focus.

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