Improving the optics at OPRF

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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The optics are pretty awful. After the defeat of the last District 200 bond referendum, the board decided to delegate decision making for an infrastructure plan to an appointed body of citizens while setting no limits on how much the plan could cost. The board would determine what to spend only after seeing this unconstrained plan. 

In a parallel action, the board endorsed the making of a highly publicized film in which a handful of black students, most of whom were struggling academically, socially, or both, were given a platform for airing their complaints. Some felt their problems were largely due to overt or covert racism embedded in the white culture. 

The interplay of these two board decisions has led some to suggest that it would be best to upgrade teaching and social facilities while delaying improvements in, or even abandoning, failing sports facilities. A main target has been the 90-year-old swimming pools. After all, the pools can be viewed as mainly benefiting advantaged white students, many of whom prefer aquatic sports. Never mind that black students, too, should learn how to swim. 

Question: Did the recent construction of two modern middle schools in Oak Park actually reduce the gap in test scores? 

The optics look still worse because the architects were unable to put a separate price on the proposed pool since it would be so thoroughly integrated with other improvements. This allowed the critics to assume the worst. But what about the rising cost of construction if the sports facilities improvements are simply delayed? 

I commend Supt. Pruitt-Adams for pointing out that students who engage in sports typically perform better in their academics. She also said the board should consider rectifying the most urgent facility needs as contained in Component D, including a new pool. 

For me, that would greatly improve the optics.

Lawrence Christmas

Former village president 

Oak Park 

Reader Comments

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Brian Slowiak  

Posted: January 8th, 2019 4:07 PM

Of course students who engage in sports activity typically perform better in academics. In order to engage in sports activities students must carry a C average, and if not must attend extra study efforts, which at one time was called the athletes table. The question is why doesn't the paid management at the High School demand that every student at the High School carry a C average or be mandated to attend extra instruction? With or without a pool. It is fitting that the article uses the word optics instead of measured performance Has anyone asked the minority students what they want? Wondering how many minority students would opt for a new pool or a new lap top or tablet and extra study time? Wondering how many minority kids would opt out of swim class entirely if they could prove thy know how to swim or accept swim lessons during the summer with the Park District or YMCA? Nothing would teach a non swimming transfer sophomore at the High School student to learn how to swim faster than public swim classes during the summer.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: January 8th, 2019 11:46 AM

Larry Christmas: Sports being correlated with academics?Remember, correlation is not the same as causation. Perhaps students from healthy family backgrounds are better rounded, more motivated, do well academically -- and choose also to participate in sports. Forcing an under-performing student into sports may not accomplish anything.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: January 3rd, 2019 10:04 AM

Mr. Christmas, I thought that this was the most important sentence in your letter: "Question: Did the recent construction of two modern middle schools in Oak Park actually reduce the gap in test scores?" The answer is no. We were told by D97 "build it and they will excel!" but this didn't occur. I think you already knew this but were too polite to say it. I liked much of what you said (I couldn't have said it better) and I absolutely support, say, the relatively inexpensive plan of putting a roof over Ridgeland Commons (or Stantec plan). I don't think that we'll have seating for 600.........but there is that "optics" thing to consider. Along with the already crushing tax burden.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 2nd, 2019 10:13 PM

You want to improve the optics - repair the pool, eliminate the swim requirement, and let the recruits who join let the Navy train them how to swim. Not sure that swimming is a requirement to survive in modern times, any more than sword fighting is.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: January 2nd, 2019 9:06 PM

Lets fix the problems black kids are having by building a handful of white kids a shiny new olympic pool with fan seating for 600. And let's commend a superintendent who can't see how entirely ludicrous that idea is. Another classic pool parent comment. And this guy was Village President? Yikes.

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