Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.
Profession: retired English teacher and administrator from OPRF, teaching Winter Quarter (3 classes) at University High Lab School of U of C, teaching Spring Quarter (1 class) at Northwestern University, COO of Rookie LLC (my daughter's website for teenage girls, Rookie, www.rookiemag.com)
Years in Oak Park or River Forest: at OPRFHS 1978-2010, rented apartment 1979-1981, owned house 1986-now
Are you an OPRF graduate? No
Do you have children who have, are or will be attending OPRF? What are their ages? Yes, 22, 20, 16
Why are you running for this office?
I love the school into which I poured my best professional efforts for my entire career. I have been happy and proud to have my three daughters educated at OPRF. I wish to help maintain, solidify, and improve the quality of the school. I know how important the school is to the vitality and viability of Oak Park and River Forest. I understand well the challenges of assuring that this large comprehensive school serves all of its students well. I have been concerned of late with the growth and rigidity of the administrative hierarchy and would like to see the professional faculty empowered to participate more effectively in educational decisions.
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? Yes
What do you consider to be the greatest strengths of Oak Park and River Forest High School?
OPRF has a long tradition as an excellent comprehensive public high school. The OP and RF communities have been wonderfully supportive of the school and have approached challenges through the years sensitively, thoughtfully, wisely, creatively, and professionally. The professional faculty of the school is outstanding. The school's response to diversity and equity issues, in particular, in recent decades has been exemplary in many important ways. While much remains to be accomplished, the school is moving forward on solid footing, thanks in great part to the efforts of the professional faculty.
What are your strongest concerns about the school at this time?
Cementing top-down decision making in a rigidly hierarchical administrative structure, as has happened in recent years, is dangerous for a school. At the same time, federal and state mandates and the testing industry are having too much influence on educational decisions in the school. Teachers should be enlisted as decision making partners, but the opposite has happened: teachers have been increasingly disempowered on educational decisions and direction. I am concerned, too, that the poor reporting on and considerable misunderstanding about the District's financial reserves will encourage a fairly unthinking anti-tax backlash among citizens.
How many District 200 school board meetings have you attended in the past two years? None. But over my long career at OPRF, I attended many, many Board meetings.
What is your opinion of the Strategic Planning Process currently underway?
I am not directly involved, but from what I can gather, it seems to be a promising process. As chairperson of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee from 1991-1993, I was heavily involved in the previous strategic planning effort in the early 1990's, and I saw that it can be a most productive process, although I also know that it can be quite a challenge to carry through on the actual plans that emerge. I have great confidence in Allan Alson as facilitator of the current effort.
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 strongly support the idea of addressing educational issues as early as possible in a child's life, including its prenatal life. I strongly support the work of the Collaboration for Early Childhood. District 200 should absolutely partner with the group to the extent that it is reasonable, possible, and legal. Ultimately, I think, early childhood initiatives in Oak Park and River Forest must secure substantial and reliable funding directly from taxpayers and/or foundations.
Is the current financial reserve held by the school district a reasonable amount or too much?
This is a bad question. It oversimplifies a complex problem, as coverage by the Wednesday Journal of the problem has tended to do, frankly. Tax cap legislation and referendum politics complicate the financial decisions of any school board in Illinois. Beyond that, the miserable economy of recent years makes the financial reserve an easy target for short-sighted thinking. I wish the WJ would cover the topic fairly and in its full complexity.