By Terry Dean
The race for the District 200 school board got a little more crowded Monday with a few last-minute filings, and one of the hopefuls is currently a member of Oak Park's elementary school board.
Three seats are open this election cycle at the high school — and four in District 97. Dist. 200 incumbents John Allen and Sharon Patchak-Layman filed their petitions on Monday, as did newcomers Rance Clouser and Margaret Lattner Skiver. Incumbent Ralph Lee filed last week, along with hopefuls John Bokum and John Phelan.
Clouser is a current Dist. 97 board member, first elected in 2007. The Oak Park resident has ties to the high school, having served on the Citizens Council, and is also an active member of SEA (Supported Education Association), an advocacy group for families with kids with special needs. Clouser said he feels his work on the Dist. 97 board is complete and wants to tackle issues at OPRF, where he has two students enrolled.
"I'd like to work with Dist. 200 on some of the challenges the high school is facing. It seemed like a natural progression," he said.
If elected next April, he'd be the second person in recent elections to move from the elementary school board to Dist. 200's. Patchak-Layman, also a former Dist. 97 trustee, was elected to the high school board in 2007 and will run for a second term.
Clouser insisted he wasn't looking to jump to OPRF's board because of the financial troubles facing the elementary school district. After more than 20 years of going without an operating referendum, Dist. 97 has a working-cash fund bond-sale referendum on the ballot in April. The district warns of deep cuts to popular programs and a reduction in staff if the measure fails. Clouser said the district needs a referendum — which he supports — and is hopeful that voters will support it.
"The responsibility of a board member is to exhibit financial stewardship, regardless of the money a district has or does not have," he said of his decision to run for OPRF's board.
Among the issues he wants to address is improving the transition of students from feeder districts into the high school. A key, Clouser said, is making data more easily sharable. He noted student privacy issues make that somewhat difficult. But there are ways, he said, to facilitate that, such as withholding a child's name or ensuring parents' rights to restrict certain information. The three superintendents of Oak Park and River Forest schools have discussed sharing data, but Clouser is looking to extend that conversation to the board level.
"There has been talk about sharing data, but I think the boards needs to be involved in this discussion as well. And I think there's support and agreement on everyone's part. We serve the same kids as they go through their academic career, and I think improving the educational outcomes for students is a goal all three districts want to achieve," Clouser said.