Teachers, community members march for public education


Matt Troher

Marchers depart from Downers South HS and make way to McCollum Park

Matt Troher and Katherine Gross

What was supposed to be a cloudy, rainy day turned out to be the perfect weather for the Downers Grove Walk for Public Education. Teachers, students, politicians, and community members alike turned out 150-strong, for the mile-long march from DGS to McCollum Park on Sunday, May 6.

Organized by DGN teachers Mike Tompkins and Lois Graham, the walk was coordinated “in support of a strong, public education system,” according to the walk’s flyer. Graham, the vice president of the District 99 Teachers’ Union, helped organize the walk as a reminder of the importance of public education.

“I hope [the walk] points out to people the importance of public schools,” Graham said. “Without them, we’re in really big trouble, in terms of equality and access for people of all different socio-economic groups.”

Starting at the DGS parking lot, community members rallied around the first speaker, DGN English teacher Mike Tompkins. Tompkins stood on the bed of his truck and delivered his speech to the crowd.

“The march was a result of bringing people together to say ‘we have strength, collectively we can make a difference, and collectively we matter’,” Tompkins said.

Among the speakers was Downers Grove Education Association President Valerie Hardy, who teaches English at DGS for 16 years. Congressional Candidate Sean Castens was also present.

“There are things that a community has to have, and schools are one of them,” Casten said. “There are things schools can do that aren’t limited to education. There’s a whole set of social things, from lunches for low-income kids to programs for kids with special needs.”

Following the conclusion of the speakers, the crowd gathered up to begin their walk from DGS to McCollum park. Tompkins donned a neon-green vest and a megaphone, rallying the troop s with chants.

Once the walkers arrived at the park, they were greeted by a DJ, refreshments, and even a bounce house for the children. Walkers were encouraged to bring dogs along for the walk, some dressed up for a pet costume contest, judged by DGN social studies teacher Karen Spahr-Thomas.

Although the march was organized by teachers, a number of DGN students turned out to support the cause. Junior Riley Hornilla came out to advocate for a brighter future for public schools everywhere.

“I decided to participate because my dad is a teacher in a district that isn’t as fortunate as ours,” Hornilla said. “It’d be amazing to see all the benefits of a public education system here, like in Downers Grove, could be accessible to every student in a public school.”