On May 26, an Oak Park and River Forest High School administrator gave an update on new approaches to grading at a school board meeting. “Equitable grading practices” is one approach among others being considered by a team of administrators and teachers. Following the meeting, the administrator was quoted as saying, “all students learn at different paces.” If the school’s administration believes this to be true, isn’t that counterintuitive to the elimination of honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses for the freshman class?

Tuition relief for parents of children, pre-K through high school, is stalled in Springfield. This pro-choice plan allows parents to choose the best school for their children and be funded by local and state education dollars. Unfortunately, the proposal does not have the support of the party in control of education reform in Springfield — the public teachers union.

On Jan. 1, 2023, “cash bail” will be abolished in Illinois under a Springfield criminal rights bill passed with the support of all state officials representing Oak Park. A victim rights bill that would consider the threat and danger an individual poses to another person or the community, if released, is stalled in Springfield because it does not have the support of the same officials. On June 7, the San Francisco District Attorney was recalled by 61% of voters for not confronting serious quality-of-life crimes in that city. Cook County is at this juncture, but Illinois law does not allow citizens the ability to recall a state’s attorney.

Oak Park shootings and carjackings are now commonplace. Oak Park voters overwhelmingly rejected an April 2021 referendum to defund the village’s police department — No 68%, Yes 32%. Last reported, the Oak Park Police Department has 13 patrol officer vacancies and two commander spots open. Oak Park police understaffing reduces criminal deterrence in our community. Is this a backdoor referendum by village hall to defund the police department, contrary to the mandate from the electorate? One hundred percent of the cannabis sales tax, along with additional fines collected from those convicted of a crime, should be designated for increased community policing and support of mental health services in Oak Park.

The Oak Park library board has eliminated a longstanding requirement that the executive director have a master’s degree in library science. How much will the board similarly reduce their salary? What’s not lower — the cost of the second firm hired to assist in the search. The first firm specialized in recruiting library leaders at a cost of $18,500 but departed due to a difference of opinion about the criteria for the job. The board then hired a connected firm for $28,000 with no experience in library science — all at the expense of the taxpayers. [Editor’s note: The original consultant returned the check to the library, so taxpayers are only paying for the second consultant].

Will it be EXEloo or Portland Loo in case you missed the recent village board discussion on the addition of public toilets in downtown Oak Park. What is known, the cost upward of $500K with annual maintenance of $12K, will not be covered by the users. The final decision will come after it is determined how to fund the project. The annual cost of an ADA-accessible Porta-Potty rental is $13,416 or slightly more than the maintenance cost of village hall’s proposed royal flush. Oak Park taxpayers have opined they’re getting fleeced on this proposal. I have to agree.

Richard Willis is a former Oak Park Township trustee and Community Mental Health board member.

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