Two D97 parents announce candidacies for April board vote

? Incumbents silent on whether they'll seek re-election. Filing open through late January.

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By DREW CARTER

There are three seats open on the District 97 Oak Park Elementary School Board in next April's election. Last week two parents, both active in their local schools, announced their candidacies. Meanwhile two of three incumbents say they have yet to decide if they will seek reelection. The third incumbent has made clear he will not seek reelection after two terms.

Incumbents Bob Walsh and Carolyn Newberry Schwartz have not decided whether they will run again, while board President Ade Onayemi has held for months that he will not seek re-election.

When they were elected in 2001, Newberry Schwartz won nearly 25 percent of the vote, besting Onayemi, the second place finisher, by more than 5 percentage points.

A third possible candidate for the 2005 election remains unnamed. Current board member Marcia Frank picked up a packet of candidate materials for someone she said was considering a bid for a seat on the board, but had not made a final decision to run. Frank said the unnamed person was not currently a member of the board.

Holmes mom wants to energize

Julie Blankemeier, mother of four students at Holmes Elementary School, 508 N. Kenilworth Ave., said she'd like to join the Dist. 97 board to make "good" Oak Park schools "outstanding."

A physician who's now a full-time mom, said she'll bring a passion for education to the board, and would ask for more parental input if elected.

"A lot of parents don't feel like they're as well-listened-to as they could be," Blankemeier said.

Blankemeier is the sister of Jack Ryan, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who dropped out of the race after the primary amid a scandal surrounding sealed divorce documents. She said the family connection would play no role in her bid for school board.

"I actually have no political savvy or background, other than his being my brother," Blankemeier said. She is running without any affiliations to any slates or parties.

What will influence her campaign, she said, is her experience of founding and running a health center for Spanish-speaking non-insured patients at the former Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, now part of the Advocate system. The center provided educational and community services in addition to health care, she said.

In that endeavor she needed to get people excited about and buying into her project.

Having formerly sent her kids to private schools, she's seen capital campaigns energize parents. "To have that kind of excitement at [Oak Park public] schools would be kind of neat," she said.

Irving dad to address gap in 2nd bid

Vic Guarino will run for the board again in April 2005, after an unsuccessful bid in 2001 when he ran on the EducationFirst ticket and came in last in a field of six.

He plans to run independently this time. He did not run two years ago because of time constraints at work. He is a mechanical engineer at Argonne National Laboratory.

"I think I have something to contribute to the board, with my work experience and experience at Irving," he said.

Guarino has two daughters, one who is a second grader at Irving Elementary School. 1125 S. Cuyler Ave.

He was one of six core members of the Learning Community Initiative, which has worked to reach out to Irving parents to improve parent participation at the school. The initiative aims at closing the minority student achievement gap, a goal Guarino would carry over to his tenure on the board.

"There's no silver bullet to address" the gap, Guarino said. He'll work on finding other "nitty gritty" ways of addressing the problem district-wide.

The filing period for candidates seeking election on April 5, 2005, is not until between 8 a.m. on Jan. 18 and 5 p.m. on Jan. 25.

In order to run, candidates need to be a citizen of the U.S., 18 or older, and have been a resident of Oak Park for at least a year. Candidates need to submit the following during the filing period: a notarized nominating petition bearing the signatures of at least 50 citizens who are registered to vote in the district, a statement of candidacy, and a receipt from the Cook County Clerk showing that a Statement of Economic Interests has been filed with that office.

The League of Women Voters of Oak Park will host a pre-filing workshop for anyone interested in running for the Dist. 97 board. The workshop will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4.

For more information, contact the League at 802-0697 or by email at lwvoprf@sbcglobal.net.

Contact: dcarter@wjinc.com

Oak Parker Ron Lawless picked up a packet of candidate material for election to the Oak Park and River Forest High School Board, according to District 200.

Lawless could not be reached to confirm his candidacy. He has previously made bids for state senate.

The District 200 Community Caucus has slated outgoing Park District Commissioner and Oak Park policeman Jacques Conway, and incumbents John Rigas and Paul Wolfman, for three of the four seats open in April.
?#34;Drew Carter

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