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Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.
Profession: Nonprofit Consultant
Years in Oak Park or River Forest: 19.5
Are you an OPRF graduate? No
Do you have children who have, are or will be attending OPRF? What are their ages? Yes. My 3 children are ages 19, 17, and 14 and are respectively a 2011 graduate, a junior, and a freshman.
Why are you running for this office?
Excellent education and commitment to diversity are two of the hallmarks of the Oak Park River Forest community and are two of the main reasons my wife and I moved here nearly 20 years ago. I have been actively involved throughout that time in local issues of education and diversity, and I have worked nationally on issues of political bridge building and policy development. I am particularly committed to building trust among diverse constituencies and to ensuring that every student is fully engaged in his or her learning with strong support from school, peers, family, and community. With my third and youngest son now at the high school, it is an ideal time for me to offer my combination of skills and experience in pursuit of these goals.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?
No, I have not run for political office before.
Are there individuals or groups which actively encouraged your interest in running for the D200 board?
I am running as an independent candidate with the support of many friends and colleagues from my nearly 20 years of being actively involved in Oak Park schools and civic life.
What do you consider to be the greatest strengths of Oak Park and River Forest High School?
Oak Park River Forest High School has a long tradition of educational excellence with broad community support. A few of the particular strengths are strong teachers, a widely varied curriculum, outstanding sports, music, and theater programs, excellent (if a little dated) facilities, and the diversity of students and their families.
What are your strongest concerns about the school at this time?
I am deeply concerned about the continuing disparity in results among racial and socio-economic groups and low overall scores in college readiness. I am also concerned about the stresses on higher performing students, the prevalence of drug and alcohol use, and, perhaps most importantly, the seemingly low levels of trust across and within key stakeholder groups: teachers, parents, students, administration, community, and board.
How many District 200 school board meetings have you attended in the past two years?
I've attended about 5 meetings over the last two years.
What is your opinion of the Strategic Planning Process currently underway?
I commend the Board for initiating the strategic plan and I am grateful for the efforts of so many community members engaged in the work. Community wide processes of dialogue and deliberation are inherently complex, however, and often frustrating. I am aware of questions about whether the process is reaching a broad enough audience, whether a 60-person committee can develop a compelling vision, and whether the most critical educational issues are being addressed. I support the efforts of the facilitators and participants to overcome these and other hurdles to ensure meaningful engagement from the community, and I remain hopeful, but concerned.
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?
I fully support District 200's investment and participation in the Collaboration for Early Childhood. I believe the research is compelling, showing that early childhood education is vital to the well being of all children, especially those at risk, and that the financial return on investment and the overall improved environment at the school will greatly benefit all students. Having been involved with the Collaboration over the last four years as fundraising co-chair and briefly as a board member and treasurer, I am also convinced that both the strategic plan and the leadership and membership of the Collaboration are extraordinary and provide great promise to make real inroads on the disparities in student success with which we have all struggled for many years.
(Please note that while I continue as a member and strong supporter of the Collaboration, I have stepped down from the Collaboration's Board of Directors to address any concerns about a conflict of interest as a candidate for the District 200 Board.)
Is the current financial reserve held by the school district a reasonable amount or too much?
The level of the District's reserves is unusually high as a percentage of annual operating costs and is adding to a history of distrust between the school and the community. It is essential that we resolve tensions around this issue in order to restore trust and refocus on vital educational issues. The solution must assure the financial stability of the school and the continued investment in forward-looking educational initiatives, and should give serious consideration to a flat or less than full increase in the annual levy, all subject to careful financial modeling and analysis.