Collins will build on Fagan's success at D97

Opinion

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As former presidents of the District 97 Board of Education, we offer our enthusiastic support for our new Superintendent Constance Collins. Local news reports and "word on the street," indicate that the current board has selected an excellent superintendent to lead Oak Park's Elementary schools.

We also want to offer our deepest thanks and appreciation to Superintendent Jack Fagan, who for the past 17 years led the district so well. Since Dr. Fagan came to Oak Park in 1988, the schools and community have become increasingly adept at providing an excellent education to all its students?#34;a true hallmark of diversity.

Schools provide the structure, but teachers do the real work of education, and Jack Fagan and the principals have consistently supported the ongoing development of and support for good teaching. Faculty development occurs in most districts, but District 97 has been a leader in making staff development?#34;the hallmark of a profession?#34;its most important strategic goal. The result has been student success in all areas?#34;including language arts, mathematics, science, art, world languages and music.

Partnerships have been at the core of Jack Fagan's tenure and have resulted in many of the district's success stories, including after-school and summer programming through the park district and Hepzibah Children's Association. Jack Fagan encouraged communication and intergovernmental cooperation among the school districts, the village, parks, township, and library. He was instrumental in helping to fund and support the efforts of the Township's Youth Interventionist Program, District 97's 12-year alternative education program, and the ongoing cooperative programs between District 97 and village government.

Illinois is still 49 out of 50 states in school funding, yet Oak Park continues to support its schools by careful use of resources, and when absolutely essential, getting permission from taxpayers through referenda to increase the local property tax rate. The community also supported the building of the two new middle schools, a wonderful example of leadership and community response. In fact, all ten school communities consistently give their time and treasure to augment the social and educational experiences of all children, through such groups as the local PTOs, the Education Foundation, CAST, BRAVO and PING. Without Jack Fagan's expertise in finances and hiring, and his ongoing support of school programs, all the programs that make Oak Park schools exciting would have been at risk.

Oak Park is among the most progressive, exciting communities in which to live. Young couples and families with children continue to move here in spite of enormous financial investment, because they know the schools will have such a positive influence on the character of and opportunities for their children. Clearly, the district stands for strong academic learning, appreciation of and participation in the arts, and lived multicultural experience.

So thank you Dr. Fagan for your success and dedication. We also look forward to many more years of continued excellence in elementary education. And so we also say, "Welcome Dr. Collins! You are coming to a wonderful and spirited community. Your talent and experience will advance the legacy of listening to and interpreting the many voices in our diverse village. For it is unquestionably the participation of all, combined with leadership such as Jack Fagan's, that makes Oak Park the vibrant community it is."

Charles Brauner, Sheldon Leibman,
Mary Daly Lewis, Eric Gershenson, Stephen Huth, Kathy Lamar, Elizabeth Lippit, Ann Courter, Ade Onayemi
Presidents of Oak Park
Boards of Education

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