Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.
Profession: Current: theatre actor & director; teacher for the enrichment program of the Kenilworth school district for the last 12 years; private voice and speech coach (have coached several OPRFHS students). Past: Owner & operator of FABRILE GALLERY, an art glass/designer craft gallery that had 2 locations on Michigan Ave. and 1 on the near north side of Chicago for over 30 years; assistant director at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.
Years in Oak Park or River Forest: 35
Are you an OPRF graduate? No, I am a product of Jesuit education: St. Ignatius HS, Loyola University.
Do you have children who have, are or will be attending OPRF? What are their ages? None
Why are you running for this office?
I hope to help create a relationship between the board and the community in which the board is more responsive to the needs of the community as a whole while still maintaining high academic standards and bring a businesslike and financially responsible voice to the deliberations of the board.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office? No
Are there individuals or groups which actively encouraged your interest in running for the D200 board?
I have spoken to many people concerning the relationship between the school board and the community at large , discovered that many shared my passion as to the need to solve problems and to heal the profound rift that seems to be developing between the board and the town as a whole, and found myself moved to get personally involved.
What do you consider to be the greatest strengths of Oak Park and River Forest High School? Solid academic achievement.
What are your strongest concerns about the school at this time?
Academic excellence must be maintained. In this regard the school seems to be performing reasonably well. However, the apparent attitude of the school and the board that it is divorced from the economic realities of the households of the community must be altered. The Community does not exist to serve the school and its board, the school and its board are a service of the community. The erosion of good will within the community and of the schooI's reputation and its record of providing excellent education is a real fear; a fear that is engendered by the school board's current ability to increase taxes unilaterally without presenting such levies for a vote by the population as a whole. Also, a number of townspeople to whom I have spoken have asked for total transparency with regard to the school's 123 million dollar cash reserve - exactly where it is invested, why its yield is so low, who profits from fees concerning the management and investment of this fund. The current controversy requires the board to provide this information in a open and real manner - not hidden in annual reports.
How many District 200 school board meetings have you attended in the past two years? One
What is your opinion of the Strategic Planning Process currently underway?
Interim results published by the school board are encouraging and show a general 80 to 90% approval rating in all categories (you can never please everyone). The school board states that this "will be a five-year plan with long-term goals aimed at helping all students achieve their full potential". This should ALWAYS be the objective of the school and the board. However, the school must live within the parameters of the financial challenges faced by taxpayers. Any implementations resulting from this planning process must be made in a creative manner that does not increase the general tax burden - the hiring of consultants and "futurists" is, perhaps, a luxury that cannot be afforded.
Should District 200 become an active funder and partner in the Collaboration for Early Childhood initiatives to boost the success of at-risk children in Oak Park?
The Collaboration is certainly a worthy project and Mr. Heckman's November address on the subject was compelling, but we must live within our means. Plans for any funding by D200 (containing motivation and exact and specific financial and demographic detail) should be presented to the voters at large since it is not a direct and/or expected duty of OPRFHS.
Is the current financial reserve held by the school district a reasonable amount or too much?
In the current financial climate, the reserve of 123 million dollars must be considered far too much. OPRFHS must operate and plan for the future with greater sympathy for the financial burden of all taxpayers. I feel we must restore the ability for taxpayers to vote upon additional levies made by D200 --- the school board cannot act in a vacuum. This issue will tear our community apart if not constructively addressed and ultimately damage both the school and the community. Creating a transient district, where many families flee the local real estate taxes when their children leave school, does little to enrich the ultimate future of Oak Park and River Forest.