Gates, Felton to run as a slate for District 97 board


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

District 97 Board of Education members James Gates and Amy Felton announced their intentions to run as a slate in the April 2013 election.

Gates is seeking a second term and Felton, who was appointed to her seat a year ago, is seeking a full term in her own right. She replaced former board member Jennifer Reddy, who resigned midway through her first term last October to move to New York where her husband was newly employed.

Felton, a part-time real estate attorney, was chosen from more than a dozen hopefuls seeking the appointment.

A married mother two, she is former president of the Parenthesis Family Center board in Oak Park and former co-chair of the Holmes School PTO.

Gates was elected to the board in 2009. The Oak Park native taught for 30 years in D97, including serving as president of the Oak Park Teachers Association. After retiring in 2006, Gates, a father of two adult children, has been working part-time as a consultant with suburban school districts.

He also sits on D97's policy committee with Felton.

Both announced their candidacies at the board's Nov. 13 meeting. After the session, Felton said she feels her job is not done and wants to continue helping shape the district for the future.

Gates said he remains committed to education in Oak Park and wants to play a role in helping students become successful. As for running as a slate, Gates said that was an easy decision given how well he and Felton have worked together in the past year.

The last couple of elections for the D97 board have been uncontested, but Gates said he thinks this race will attract more candidates.

The third D97 seat in next year's election is open, following Peter Barber's decision to run for Oak Park village board.

District 200

Over at District 200, Oak Park and River Forest Township trustee Eric Davis has announced that he's running for the D200 board in April.

Meanwhile, incumbents Dietra Millard and Valerie Fisher confirmed last week that neither is running for re-election.

Millard, who is a neonatologist, is in her second term, first elected in 2005. She also served as president. Fisher, an attorney, served 12 years on the board from 1997 to 2009 and also served as president. She was appointed last year by fellow members to serve out the remaining term of Jacques Conway, who resigned from the board.

Incumbent Amy McCormack says she will not seek a second term. Terry Finnegan, the board's current president, says that he will run for re-election. Finnegan, who works for Aon Hewitt as a benefits advisor, and McCormack, a former lawyer who runs a legal staffing and placement firm, were both elected in 2009.


Reader Comments

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Comment Policy


Posted: November 18th, 2012 6:52 PM

It might be appropriate for D97 to announce all the candidates after the filing deadlilne has passed. Putting it out now that X candidates are running could be perceived as an effort to dampen the interest of other potential candidates.


Posted: November 18th, 2012 4:40 PM

My final thought is I dont think the email communications for school related info is appropriate for election info. The school board represents ALL the Village and NOT just the folks who have kids in school. The Wed Journal does a suffice job.

Max C  

Posted: November 18th, 2012 2:54 PM

Sacks and O'Connor were both non-incumbents last time and were featured in the communications.


Posted: November 18th, 2012 2:24 PM

Will they announce non incumbent candidates? Have they in the past?

Max C   

Posted: November 18th, 2012 2:16 PM

I actually believe the names of the candidates running for the board last time were shared in an e- mail and online. Again, you might not like it, but the district is well within its rights to do it as long as there is no campaigning involved.


Posted: November 18th, 2012 2:09 PM

True about announcement. Has the Dist email ever done it previously? Precedent? Wrong forum to use to introduce your candidacy. Could the president use a state of the union or another nationally televised broadcast to announce?

Max C  

Posted: November 18th, 2012 1:59 PM

Also using your logic, Gates and Felton should not have announced their intentions at the board meeting because they did so in the district's board room using the district's microphones.

Max C   

Posted: November 18th, 2012 1:48 PM

The general public. They cannot campaign or electioneer, which they did not do in this case. However, I am confident you will share your concerns with the district directly instead of posting anonymously on here.

Max C  

Posted: November 18th, 2012 1:46 PM

Parent, I actually do believe there is value in having governing bodies making people aware of who is running for office. Also, perhaps you would benefit from learning the actual election laws before commenting. Public bodies have the right to inform


Posted: November 18th, 2012 1:08 PM

Max, the media can cover the elections. Should the village be announcing who is running for the VOP Board in the FYI? No Dist resources should be used in any capacity for any election. Who is responsible for content in those emails?


Posted: November 18th, 2012 11:41 AM

Our taxes pay for the teacher salaries which then pay the union dues. It should be the right of the taxpayers to decide whether or not our district teachers should have union representation. Also, no government institution should be unionized. The taxpayers and voters should be making these decisions.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2012 11:16 AM

When American students achievement levels regain world class - then the teachers can pound their chests. Till then I think they should rethink their educational philosophy . We spend plenty per student so money is only a minor factor. Unions protect bad teachers who do more harm than anyone will admit. One year with an incompetent teacher can doom the rest of the child's educational experience.

Max C  

Posted: November 18th, 2012 10:27 AM

Not really sure why you consider it best practice not to educate the public about who is running for such an important position. You also left out the fact that the same e-mail provided info about how other people can run.

Max C  

Posted: November 18th, 2012 10:22 AM

Unless the e-mail said vote for Gates and Felton, I think your comment is a little off base. Plus, I actually appreciate knowing who is running and am hopeful the district will provide a list of all candidates when others announce their intentions.

the "first" parent  

Posted: November 17th, 2012 10:46 PM

There is nothing "low" about concern for conflicts of interest. Can Gates seperate himselft from the teachers he represented for all those years? Can he put citizens ahead of his son? These are things voters should be thinking about.


Posted: November 17th, 2012 8:07 PM

Let me first clarify, I am a different parent than the previous comments. I didnt say it was an endorsement, but thought inappropriate. Will the D 97 newsletter announce when non D97 board members run? Best practice is to stay away completely.


Posted: November 17th, 2012 7:57 PM

Proud Union Member-Stop embarrassing yourself & get informed with what's really going on with your fellow union members. It wasn't a secret meeting-look it up. I gave you all the details. BTW Fox didn't cover this travesty.

Proud Teachers' Union Member  

Posted: November 17th, 2012 7:36 PM

RJ- I have no idea what Fox News told you about a secret communist meeting, but please stop embarrassing yourself here. Some dissenters have legitimate arguments and you diminish them with your ignorance of the subject. Laugh is not worth the space.


Posted: November 17th, 2012 7:25 PM

Perhaps you should question your fellow CTU members why they attended the Midwest Marxist Conference at Northwestern last week. Maybe they're the leftist wing nuts you should question. No need to feign ignorance & shift blame on others.

louanne johannesson  

Posted: November 17th, 2012 7:15 PM

Parent..Instead of yet another indictment of D97(I received same email..CLEARLY NOT an endorsement just a news item} why don't you address your irrelevant comments about the candidate's family, which was completely DESPICABLE!!! Any response to THAT?

Proud Teachers' Union Member from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2012 7:01 PM

RJ- As soon as I saw the word "Marxist", I knew you were a low-information Fox News wingnut. You don't even know what Marxist means. Newsflash! There is NO SUCH THING as a teacher brainwashing children to be communists. Get educated or stop posting!!


Posted: November 17th, 2012 6:55 PM

Yesterday I received an email from D 97 informing parents of typical stuff EXCEPT it had announced the slate of Gates and Felton running. I wouldn't describe it as a endorsement, but still a bit odd considering there shouldnt be any Dist $ involved?


Posted: November 17th, 2012 6:43 PM

rj-are you serious....or are you in some 1950s McCarthy timewarp....or maybe you should move to Walker country just north of Illinois. What is your problem with teachers????


Posted: November 17th, 2012 3:56 PM

Proud Union Member- Maybe some of us have a problem with union teachers attending Midwest Marxist conferences at Northwestern last week to further learn how to poison our kids with said propaganda while your breaking our backs to pay for this crap!

Proud Teachers' Union Member from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2012 2:22 PM

Of course the sour grapes Romney loving Fox News union-hating illiterates had to chime in. Head of the union is a VERY hard job and an excellent qualification to anyone with a mind. Don't post if you don't actually have anything intelligent to add.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2012 11:46 AM

Mr. Gates has spent his life working to improve education for all students, and continues to do so. Since when is UNION a dirty word in Oak Park. This is inexcusable bashing. Bringing up family members is the lowest of the low. Shame on you!!!!!!!!

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2012 11:43 AM

Where to begin. Clearly the poster does not even know if Ms. Felton is related to the people referenced. If it were true, what would that have to do with her ability to represent the community on the D97 Board? Really????


Posted: November 17th, 2012 11:00 AM Donald J. Felton and Maria Felton.


Posted: November 17th, 2012 10:52 AM

Is this Amy Felton related in any way to Donald & Maria Felton of Oak Park, who were charged with Mortgage Fraud several years ago? Seems to me that they had a daughter named Amy.

A Realist from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2012 10:28 AM

James, dead on. D97 won't change for folks who whine on a comment board. Here's a first step. Go to the URL below and sign in. At least it begins to form a nucleus of opposition.


Posted: November 17th, 2012 9:37 AM

For all you critics, now would be the time to stop the whining and put your ideas to the test. Run for a board position. At least Gates and Felton have the guts to put themselves on the ballot. The rest of you are just cowardly.

OP Parent  

Posted: November 17th, 2012 7:41 AM

Gates and Felton's election is frankly irrelevant. The key question for the board is where is the innovation and excellence? Also, how many OP board members have actually run any organization? expect 4 more years of taxes hikes and medocrity.

Lucky to have a roof over my head from Oak Park  

Posted: November 16th, 2012 11:50 PM

I agree with Pensionless. The Union Boss on the school board has never been a good idea. Great guy or not, he's not looking out for kids or their overtaxed overburdened parents.


Posted: November 16th, 2012 11:45 PM

And don't forget - He's not just the former union boss, he's also the proud papa of a current D97 teacher. So besides all his former budies, he's also thinking about his own kid when considering what's best for teachers/the community/students

Over Paid  

Posted: November 16th, 2012 9:49 AM

Where was his bread buttered? Who does he really look out for? The teachers who want MORE MORE MORE..........................OR the Tax payers who deserve MORE MORE MORE for Less less less. Is this a case of the fox guarding the hen house?


Posted: November 16th, 2012 9:25 AM

Ugh... the union boss on the school board? Well that explains the ever-increasing ranks of the D97 $100K club at the expense of overburdened OP property tax payers.


Posted: November 15th, 2012 11:14 PM

Gates is a great guy - as long as he gets his way. The "slate" tells me that Felton is also a bad choice. Let's encourage alternatives.

tom from OP  

Posted: November 15th, 2012 9:42 PM

Served the community well for over 30 years in education. He also spent countless hours mentoring children in sports after shcool, including my kid. Job well done and I hope you are enjoying your retirement, you deserve every penny of it

6 Figure Teachers from Berwyn  

Posted: November 15th, 2012 10:45 AM

69k. 82k, 99k last 3 yrs (2004,5,6) of salary for teacher Gates. Pension of 5k a month currently. Where will all the tax $$ come from to support such high paid teachers?


Posted: November 15th, 2012 8:04 AM

I'll vote for any candidate that reduces salaries or plans to combine the two districts and cut half the administration costs.

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