It is nearly time for a new school year to begin at Oak Park and River Forest High School. And it is destined to be a remarkable one.
There is the coming debut of America to Me, a 10-hour documentary, filmed with extraordinary access over an entire school year and focusing on equity issues. Also coming up is the rollout of a year-long master facilities planning document. This ambitious effort, dubbed Imagine OPRF, is long overdue with past planning efforts limited in scope. This proposal will be sweeping, costly and have angst built-in, what with worries over taxes, that pesky $100 million cash reserve and a debate over pool size that is moving toward Freudian.
Not to be overlooked — though a quartet of school officials seemed surprised last week that we hadn’t overlooked it during an interview — is the lack of a new contract with faculty. School officials assure us school will open as planned under the old contract. That at least two months after a settlement was likely expected there is no pact is not great news.
We look at teacher contracts as vital indicators of whether these two parties have absorbed a clear message of tax saturation led by the cost of local public education. Further, and equally critical, contracts with teachers must reflect the school’s stated determination to innovate on equity.
In the weeks ahead as eyes turn to the documentary and the facilities plan, we’ll still be watching for a faculty contract that matches this school district’s ambitions and its realities.