A perspective on Lake Forest’s Schools and the District 115 election from a newcomer…..
My family moved to Lake Forest in August 2016 after a 3-year stint abroad. My husband and I have two children enrolled in Deer Path Middle School.
We moved to Lake Forest – sight unseen. What I mean is that prior to landing here from overseas with a dozen suitcases, two jetlagged children and sick dog, I had been outside O’Hare airport roughly five times in my life and never ventured north of Terminal 1. True story.
Why would I do such a thing? I blame my friend “Susan”.
Susan and I know each other from Texas, my home state. Our sons were classmates at a prestigious and academically rigorous boys’ school there. Her husband’s job brought her family to Chicago a few years back and based on her extensive research into public and private school options, they settled in Lake Forest. Her perspectives confirmed what I had discovered via my own online research.
- Lake Forest is highly ranked by multiple national news publications. Other similarly ranked public schools in Illinois have more than double the number of students.
- Lake Forest has the academic resources and programs available to keep the smartest kids busy and challenged.
- Lake Forest has every sport and extracurricular program imaginable and since the district is relatively small, kids have a reasonably good chance of getting to participate.
- Private schools are relatively rare in Chicagoland (compared to our town in Texas) and about 50% more expensive per year.
Susan’s input was the deciding factor behind my choice of Lake Forest over Wilmette.
When we actually arrived here, my husband and I couldn’t believe our luck. Our house was gorgeous, the town was adorable, the High School looked like something out of a movie set and the lake…. wow….
The people were so nice too. Our neighbors opened their arms and homes to us. One thing led to another and suddenly, we had developed a few delightful friendships.
I’ll admit that things were challenging at school in the beginning. One of my kids had a hard time adjusting but teachers and the school administrators stepped up to troubleshoot problems – including bullying. Their support really helped make things better. Today, both of my children are settled and thriving.
This is our first experience with public schools. I have found the teachers, administrators, curriculum, facilities and technology to be on par with past experiences at private schools. In short, were I to give Lake Forest Schools a grade, I would grant a solid A.
So, imagine my bewilderment when my inbox was suddenly bombarded with emails from a group called the Final Four claiming that the Lake Forest School District was a festering cesspool of poor academic performance, corruption and negligence.
First, there was that wrecked train allegory meant to illustrate how the District’s policy of “de-tracking” had led to all sorts of calamities including low test scores, decreased property values, declining enrollment, etc….
Now, it’s been a while since I read my Huxley, but I think I can agree with the Final Four on this: an authoritarian approach to engineering a student’s education and life trajectory from a young age is NOT progressive.
The de facto leader of the Final Four group attempted to clarify the proposed “re-tracking” plan during the candidate debate hosted by the League of Women Voters. The muddled endorsement of student ‘entitlement’ was shocking and revealed a preference for centralized control and discrimination that is antithetical to normative American values of individualism and hard work.
The most articulate smack down of the First Four’s regressive views came from a widely circulated article written by LFHS Junior, Elizabeth Porter (http://theforestscout.com/opinion-education-entitled/). Do yourself a favor and read this. If anything, it should help alleviate worries that Lake Forest students lack the skills necessary to respond to the challenges of the adult world.
Since the debate occurred and Miss. Porter’s article was published, the Final Four mouthpiece has fallen silent on the subject of education policy. Recent email communications and posts on social media sites lack a single reference to how the Final Four would improve classes, recruit better teachers, expand educational options or invest in additional technology. Nothing. Zippo. Nada.
But, alas, there is no rest my weary inbox. It groans under the strain of more Final Four emails, each with bigger, bolder, Trumped-up (capitalization intended) claims of sensational wrongdoings: Corruption! Conflicts of interest! Graft! Negligence!
Again and again, these brazen claims have been debunked. (http://www.righttracklfhs.org/)
Yet, legitimate questions about the Final Four have been repeatedly asked and conspicuously ignored. For example, where did the Final Four get their email lists?
And then there are the donors to the Final Four. There are only seven publically disclosed donors to this group and each has given at least $4000. Three of the seven have given a total of $13,000 – anonymously. That’s a lot of money to shell out from the shadows- particularly to a group that likes to tout the importance of transparency.
Who are these people? Do they live in our community? What do they have to gain from a Final Four win?
By contrast, take a look at the list of citizens who have publically disclosed their political and financial support of the Caucus candidates: http://www.righttracklfhs.org/about.
It doesn’t take an Alpha to work out that the Final Four are not motivated by any sincere interest in our kids, schools or community. Therefore, I am forced to conclude that what’s really going on here is personal.
I don’t know who upset whom or why or when but here’s the thing – I just don’t care.
You see, I came here for the schools. I rent the house I live in and one day, I plan to purchase one of the 454 houses that are currently for sale in this lovely little town. And yet, the bedrock of the community of Lake Forest – the school system – is at risk of being sabotaged by manipulative troublemakers with a questionable personal and/or political agenda.
I urge anyone reading this to do two things.
First, rest assured that the sky is not falling. Lake Forest Schools really are pretty great. Could things be improved? Sure, everyone can do better at something. However, the Final Four have failed to demonstrate how they have a plan, or deserve our trust, to do better.
Second, vote for the Caucus candidates. I met them. I believe they are good people who have endured a brutal campaign and unconscionable mudslinging because they recognize and support the importance of strong public schools in our community.
Please vote for the FIRST FOUR candidates on the District 115 ballot to ensure that this town continues to be a place where families like mine choose to settle and raise their children.
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