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By Terry Dean
In the race for Dist. 97's four seats, five candidates are running, including incumbents Bob Spatz and Peter Traczyk, who is currently board president. Not filing by Monday's deadline is Michele Harton, a two-term trustee and former board president. The other hopefuls are William Martin, Denise Sacks and Jim O'Connor.
An Oak Park resident and former principal of a Chicago charter school, O'Connor is taking his first stab at running for elected office in the village. He was principal of KIPP Ascend Charter School on the city's West Side from 2003-2009 and is currently project director for Advance Illinois, a public policy group focusing on education.
O'Connor said he and his wife moved to Oak Park four years ago because of the schools — they have two small children, including a first-grader at Irving. His primary interests are helping the district with hiring and retention of staff, and using data to assess the effectiveness of programs. He added that his background as a school administrator and teacher would be an asset on the board.
KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) was co-founded by River Forest native and OPRF High School alum Mike Feinberg, and since 2000 has opened more than 60 schools across the country. The schools target low-income areas of largely minority students.