Once again, Oak Park and River Forest have a Black woman in a position of public policy authority who feels intense hostility from members of the community. 

Right now that person is Dr. Theresa Chapple-McGruder, the public health director for Oak Park’s village government. Chapple-McGruder, the department director since last spring, took substantial verbal abuse at a protest rally outside Oak Park and River Forest High School after the school briefly nixed extracurricular activities due to a COVID outbreak. Social media has also been vicious toward Chapple-McGruder as she works to keep the public safe during this pandemic.

It must be noted that Mike Charlie, the longtime public health director, who guided Oak Park through the brutal early months of COVID and directly and indirectly shuttered schools, parks, restaurants and many businesses, encountered no such venom over his hard choices. Charlie resigned his post and took a lateral move to become Skokie’s public health chief to be closer to his home. 

Last spring, the superintendents of OPRF and the District 97 elementary schools, both Black women, left their jobs. One retired, the other took a new post in New Jersey. Such departures are always multi-faceted. But each of those leaders expressed to the Journal during exit interviews that hostility directed at them over their tenures was, in their estimation, related to their race and gender. 

We need to do much better than this.

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