Thursday, July 3, 2008

14 Years Ago (orig. pub. 1994)

I'm happy to be convoluted and correct rather than convoluted
and wrong. This series of monologues on my part, the Proviso
Board's words and actions for theirs are a convoluted way to
engage in a dialogue. The known and unknown, factual and
false, perceptions and misconceptions about the quality of
education in our public high school are all playing a role. I
have, for my part, tried to make it clear that these are my
views of the situation based on the available information. If
the board has better information they haven't communicated it
very well.

They put their best effort behind the referendum; it failed.
They were told by the voters not to look to them for more
money at the present time. It was a simple question; asked
and answered, but evidently, subject to interpretation by the
Board of Education at District 209. Had the question been
should 209 be allowed to tack an additional 10% to their levy or
whether 209 could further indebt the district by $15.2
million, (in anticipation of tax caps that are being considered
in response to past taxing practices which seemed excessive)
I think they know what the answer would have been as well.
What is truly convoluted is harboring any notion that
the outcome of the referendum would have differed even if
100% of the eligible voters had cast ballots.

While I can sympathize with the societal problems Ms. Sykes
admits are preventing Proviso from providing an adequate
education, I don't see them as excusing the pathetic results.
High school is not a place to be teaching Fourth grade. It
isn't the place to be addressing deficiencies which have had
years to become ingrained. High school is too important to
subjegate its duty to anything other than providing a high
school level education. Factors which detract from that
cannot be allowed to replace it as the priority.

Proviso is a High School. (or is pretending to be.) That
should mean that high school level work isn't a goal, it is a
directive. The answer to students who are not equipped to
handle work at that level is not to lower the standards to
fit. If the feeder districts are not meeting their
directives, it is incumbent on the Administration to demand a
correction at the lower level. As long as less is tolerated;
less will continue.

By not calling these primary districts on the issue, Proviso
is allowing a fraud to be perpetuated on the taxpayers of
those districts. Worse, it forces the citizens whose
districts manage to provide a quality primary education into
a role which rightfully belongs to the Board and
Administrators of Proviso District 209. The parents of
students who desire more than excuses and dismal results have
little choice but to look elsewhere for the education which
is unavailable in their public high school.

Proviso can offer an inferior product and demand the public
pay for it. (For some arcane reason that is how the system
works.) They shouldn't expect parents to accept it if there
are other alternatives. You can't say that parents are
unwilling to pay more for better education. They're already
disproving that claim to the tune of roughly $16 million per
year. (4000 students paying $4000 per year for private
schools.) That's a pretty high price to pay so that Proviso
can continue to remediate. Parents pay because Proviso, in
trying to be both a primary and high school at the same time,
is failing at both.

I would say the majority of Proviso residents would concur
that Proviso as it exists today is less than optimum and
losing ground. Whether fact or perception it must be
corrected. That majority is an angry bunch. The anger simply
had no direction. Now, thanks, in no small part, to an
arrogance which believes raising taxes and selling bonds will
correct the difficiencies in the face of sentiment to the
contrary from voters and non-voters alike, anger is beginning
to focus.

People are starting to look. Now instead of feeling that
things at Proviso aren't too good but resigned to the
situation, they are looking at it and seeing that it can't
continue. They are looking at better districts and are
beginning to wonder how things got so bad here. They are
seeing other districts with money problems which have refused
to lower standards because of them. They are finding that
there are societal problems everywhere but other districts
aren't using them as an excuse. They are beginning to think
of alternatives other than flight or private schools.

They are beginning to look at the words and actions of those
who, by election or appointment, are supposed to be acting in
the best interests of the district. They are looking for ways
to provide input; to make their feelings known. They are
finding me. They are wanting to have an intense discussion of
their own, adjunct to your contention that you are
responsibly carrying out your function and that they are
somehow slacking in theirs. Come to the feeder districts and
listen to what they want to know. You will find that
regardless of marital status, parents do care about their
kids and are tired of being told that they do not.

They really are interested. They want to know what busses and
tort immunity have to do with the quality of education. They
want to know how a continual lowering of expectations has
improved the quality of education at Proviso. They are really
interested in the notion that losing at the ballot box still
allows you to raise taxes. They are intrigued by the ease
with which their voice is ignored. They want to know,
after years and years of wallowing in its depreciated role,
how the Board and Administration can attempt to shift the
responsibility for its failure onto societal problems, apathy
and those selfish parents who wanted their kids to have a
quality education.

Proviso's connection to the feeder districts is peripheral at
best. The District is not an accurate reflection of the
service area. Equating testing results with community support
rather than the educational preparation is specious. A high
school must set standards, then take steps to meet those
standards. At this point I don't see Proviso as doing
anything well. It has become a societal problem in and of
itself. We, as the society which Proviso effects, must demand
that they discontinue being a problem and take the steps
necessary to assure correction.

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