Candidates for District 200 Board of Education

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Three seats are open on the District 200 school board with six candidates running for office. What follows was supplied to Wednesday Journal and by the candidates.



John C. Allen, IV

Inspector General for Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services

Current or previous elected office(s) you have run for:
Current School Board Member of District 200, elected in 2007

Running independently

Primary reason for running:
As I complete my first term on the high school board, I find that there are still numerous issues that I want to continue working on for another term. I feel that the school has made great progress in creating an equitable educational environment for all students, regardless of their racial or cultural background. As chairman of the Finance committee and past chair of the now dissolved Human Resources Committee, I am constantly striving to keep a good balance between funding successful programs and using taxpayer funds wisely. This year, the high school has started a process by which it will evaluate itself with a goal of establishing a continuous improvement cycle similar to what the Baldridge method describes. It is my hope that more work on these vital components of the education process will strengthen the institution and assure significant achievement for all students and families.



John B. Bokum

Business Consultant

Current or previous elected office(s) you have run for:

Running independently

Primary reason for running:
I am running for OPRFHS Board of Education, District 200 because I feel that I can make a significant difference over the next four years working with the New Superintendent Dr. Steven Isoye, Principle, Mr. Nathaniel Rouse, Faculty/New Department Heads, Administrators, Buildings & Ground, Security, Secretaries, Teachers Aids plus all stake holders from Oak Park & River Forest. To meet the numerous challenges District 200 will face during the next four years I am grounded in the belief that sound commune sense judgment on tough choices will help OPRFHS move forward as an Institution of Higher Education & Learning. " Those Things That are Best Will Become Better".



Margaret Lattner Skiver

IT Manager

Community / Political experience:
Volunteer at local parochial schools and at Ascension.

Other / Professional experience:
Taught for six years at St. Luke School in River Forest.

BS in Information Systems from Purdue University
30+ hours towards Masters in Education

Primary reason for running:
I believe that one of the top challenges facing this board is strengthening the curriculum for the college preparatory group of students. I feel that this group of students has the least amount of attention given. I would push for redesign of the core curriculum for college preparatory and also push for more professional development in differentiated instruction.



Ralph H. Lee

Retired teacher and academic administrator

Current or previous elected office(s) you have run for:
Current member, District 200 Board of Education.

Running independently

Primary reason for running:
I am running because, as a teacher at OPRF for sixteen years through 1999, I developed a first-hand knowledge of the excellent job that we are doing in meeting the educational needs of many students, as well as the not-so-excellent job in meeting the educational needs of other students. I am proud of our performance in the one area, and I want to be just as proud of what we are doing in the other. I believe I know how to do both without sacrificing the needs of the students currently being served well. We have made significant progress over the past three years, and I want to help consolidate and build on the progress we have made. I also want to help do two other things: (1) Keep costs to taxpayers from escalating beyond our current residents' ability to support them and (2) advocate for programs that are specifically designed to help large numbers of students develop the ability to make wise decisions regarding the use of drugs of all kinds.



John Phelan


Community / Political experience:
Oak Park and River Forest Youth Football, Head Football Coach 2004-2007, Assistant Coach 2010
Oak Park and River Forest Youth Football Board Member 2007-2008
River Forest Youth Basketball, Head Coach 2008-2009
River Forest Youth Baseball, Assistant Coach, various years
Way Back Inn, Inc., Board Member 2002-2007, President 2005-2006
Lawyers in the Classroom, current volunteer
Lawyers Assistance Program – trained as intervener

Other / Professional experience:
2/02 - Present: AT&T, General Attorney
3/95 - 2/02 Lord, Bissell & Brook, Chicago, IL, Associate Attorney / Partner
8/92 - 3/95 Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff, Tichy & Mathiason, San Francisco, CA, Associate Attorney
1/91 - 1/92 Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins, Chicago, IL, Law Clerk
12/88 - 8/90 Illinois Senate Staff, Chicago/Springfield, IL, Judiciary Committee Staff
10/87 - 12/88 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 37, New York, NY, Political Action Intern
6/85 - 8/85 Kitchens of Sara Lee, Deerfield, IL, HR Intern

Oak Park and River Forest High School, 1983
Cornell University, BS Industrial and Labor Relations 1987
DePaul University College of Law, JD 1992
Moot Court Society: Treasurer '91-'92

Negotiations Intramural Co-champion '89 and '90
Intramural Appellate Advocacy Runner-up '90
Four national appellate competitions
1991 National Health Law Competition semi-finalist

Primary reason for running:
The top challenge facing the Board is finding methods to improve academic achievement for all students with an emphasis on closing gaps, and to do so in a cost-effective manner.

Our communities support a high school with a storied history that does many things well, but our current achievement results are not what they should be. Only 50% of juniors, and only 10% of ten African Americans, were deemed ""college ready"" in all four tested categories based on ACT College Ready Benchmark scores as reflected in a September 2010 report from District 200. The disaggregated results show inconsistency by subject matter, race and general versus special education, which provides guidance on areas ripe for improvement. The Board needs to efficiently and effectively implement strategies to address inconsistent results and turn OPRF into a college ready institution for all students we serve.

Above all, student achievement needs to be improved with an emphasis on addressing gaps. We need to study similar schools that have become exemplary and implement their proven methods. I believe that the secret of exceptional achievement is great teaching and more of it, provided in a culture where teachers, parents, students and the administration are motivated to succeed. My experience is that OPRF has great teachers, but not consistently great teaching. It has motivated students, but not enough students are motivated and not enough of the time. I believe we can improve achievement by committing to a focused and sustained effort using methods described in How Schools Become Exemplary: Ways that Leadership Raises Achievement and Narrows Gaps By Improving Instruction In 15 Public High Schools, The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University (2009). This study provides a proven roadmap to improved academic achievement for all students, and a means of narrowing the gaps that have plagued District 200 for too long. Regarding motivation, I believe that focus on reducing substance abuse among students and developing best in class co-curricular activities will reduce academic malaise and foster relationships between students and faculty sponsors that can have a significant, positive impact upon achievement.

Some are content that our achievement exceeds local, state and national averages. As a student and community member all my life, I have never known the residents of this District to be satisfied with comparisons to "average." Our children are no longer competing with other students locally, in Illinois or even in America. We have to keep striving to become better.

A disciplined, efficient and focused Board is essential to moving forward with the effort to improve student achievement. The Board's primary role is to hire talented administrators and provide them with policies and financial oversight that enable them to implement effective and cost effective improvements. The Board must inspire the many stakeholders in OPRF -- teachers, parents, taxpayers, administration -- to work together to achieve these goals. A unified effort is necessary to raise the expectations of students and teachers while building the trust and enthusiasm necessary for success. My broad knowledge of the high school and community, my twenty years experience as a labor and employment attorney, and my commitment to our future can help the District to achieve these goals.


Sharon Patchak-Layman

Landscape services

Current or previous elected office(s) you have run for:
District 97 - Board Member 1999-2007
District 200 - Board Member 2007-7011

Running independently

Primary reason for running:
I have worked on education and civic issues in Oak Park for 34 years. All three of my children attended Longfellow, Julian and OPRFHS. As my children grew, I taught in early childhood programs, co-owned a children's bookstore and volunteered at Longfellow School. In addition to my education activities, I have worked for open and responsive government, serving on health agency boards, participating with the League of Women Voters of Chicago, advocating for Tax Increment Funding (TIF) reform and working with neighbors to inform local government decisions.

I believe that OPRFHS can provide an excellent education for all students. I envision a school that cares about every one of its students, that seeks new ways to meet their needs, and that invites public discussion and transparency in its decision-making.

Reader Comments

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Posted: April 1st, 2011 10:44 AM

In the category of "Plays Well With Others" these incumbents get a poor or needs improvement. I'm with Jeff...No repeats here.


Posted: April 1st, 2011 10:41 AM


Oakgrove from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 10:10 AM

Keep Sharon Patchak-Layman on the District 200 board. Integrity, hard work, and knowledgeable about the schools, doesn't just "vote with the crowd".

Chicago Lampoon  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 10:53 AM

On March 19, the Wall St. Journal did a story on a town that had been paying its town manager more than $200k. When they told him they couldn't afford it anymore, he quit -- and they had a long line of qualified applicants willing and able to do the job for less than half that. More than 14k teachers in IL make more than $100k a year. I'm sure that if any school board said they just couldn't afford it anymore, there would be long lines of able people seeking those positions.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 20th, 2011 6:11 PM

Please VOTE for ALL the NON INCUMBENTS!!! All the current board members need to go!!! Especially everyone who voted on suing the Village. Ba BYE. Vote Bokum, Skiver, and Phelan.

Too funny  

Posted: March 16th, 2011 7:15 PM

Charles de Galle-classic

Margaret Thatcher from London, England  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 11:48 PM

Violet, as I have famously said, the problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.

Charles De Galle from Paris  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 8:13 PM

@Violet: The people of Paris, France are waiting for you. Come, enjoy our pungent cheese, excellent wine and stagnant economy. You will love our socialism, arrogance, and permanent underclass. Here, you can strike for a month just because you don't like the way the wind blows. Which is convenient because it gives you more time to smoke and eat baguettes all day. You are too good for Oak Park, Violet...those damn, Americans don't appreciate you. We are waiting! Come soon!!

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 7:26 PM

Continued: Because at the end of the day, I wish we were more Socialist as a nation; more European. I think we should ALL have 9 weeks of vacation a year..12, in fact! I would love if that were the norm. No, we still have this Puritan stench on our hands...Sorry but life is not all about work. The Powers that Be love nothing more than for people like you (who don't make as much) to attack those who make more and have more time off. Meanwhile, the moneyed folk laugh all the way to the bank...

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 7:22 PM

Because it's a slippery slope. Because in Wisconsin there was an agreement and Czar Walker the Dickhead decided that collective bargaining was too much for public servants (after exempting firefighters and cops in hopes of splitting up the unity front). 145K is not 250K. It is the very high end of teacher salaries in this country. And I am tired of the Right-Wing talking points of "they work nine months." First of all, that is NOT true and second: I wouldn't give a rat's anus if it were! *TBC*

Violet, Apples & Oranges? from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 7:16 PM

Why are you linking brokers and Wall St. with Driver's Ed teachers? You make it appear impossible to question the situation of both. I am strongly opposed to the bail out of Wall St by Bush and Obama. I think that those actions have enriched the undeserving and placed the bill on my children. But why can't I also oppose Dr Ed teachers at $145K? Would your logic say that $180K or $280K, because they are "public servants," be just fine? My question? Why not, say, $85K for 9 months?

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 6:42 PM

@Really: Poor you...Because you were serious about getting certified. You are certifiable, I have a feeling...LOL. Still waiting for you to get off that arse and getting crackin' and bring home the uppercrust bacon!

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 6:41 PM

I know people who work as brokers. I also once asked how all these young people live in Lincoln Park and have these expensive homes and someone told me that a lot of them work at the stock exchange. So there ya go. In any case, how much SHOULD they make then? How much of a paycut would be exceptable to you? How much money would be saved? I see several pictures up there--is that the norm or the exception? Let's pick on public servants while Wall Street and CEOs have orgies...

OP Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 4:42 PM

Today's NY Times had a fascinating article about reinventing school: Would love to know what the candidates (and others) think of it.


Posted: March 15th, 2011 4:04 PM

Ummm-I did make that comment about getting a teaching cert. and you proceeded to insult me.

Violet, Apples & Oranges? from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 3:31 PM

@Violet. Why are you comparing "brokers around here making millions of dollars" (of which I know none - how many are in OP or RF?), with the pay of Driver's Ed teachers? $146,000 w/great benefits and only working for 9 months, at the age of 46, and retired with $100,000 pension at 57. All this is paid by OP and RF taxpayers - the majority who make no where near this amt. Further, there are 100's of applicants for each opening. Why/How do you compare this with "brokers" and Wall St?

OP Resident from LOL  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 2:55 PM

I am not a Troll!! LOL:)

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 2:25 PM

I am not a troll. That is an insult used to marginalize someone. Congrats, Really! You are good at it...I am disgusted by the current attacks on public servants. So what if you don't make 146K? Then get your ass back in school and maybe you'll get there someday! Me? I don't give a crap. I see these brokers around here making millions of dollars! Our teachers' work (IMO) is more meaningful than making rich people richer! @OPRF: The 'achievement gap' is all about parental involvement.

That's wrong  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 1:46 PM

It's 143k. 16 years teaching and not OP taxpayer.


Posted: March 15th, 2011 1:30 PM

um-146k/yr-I think that was pretty obvious. Don't feed the trolls.

OPRF Parent with 2 teens  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 12:37 PM

Teaching is the most honorable profession there is. I don't begrudge teachers for these salaries they deserve it. Our teacher should be valued more than they are. BUT, I don't believe in tenure. The school should be able to fire bad teachers. This school knows exactly who these teachers are and their hands are tied because of tenure. Get ride of tenure, higher better teachers and maybe the school will hire the right teachers to handle the Achievement Gap.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 12:36 PM

Oh, Really! Do you really think that most Americans will earn only $146,000 in their lifetime? Check the battery in your calculator.

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 12:29 PM you were being "faceitious" and yet I am the troll, TROLL?! And thanks for the tip...I just took out my DICK-SHUNN--ARY to look up that BIG WORD of yours! You haven't made a single point. Of course it is a sweet salary--and??? I would love to earn it but just because I don't doesn't mean I think that no one should do so! In the grand scheme of things, 146K after a long career is not exorbitant (look it up, "dearie"). Unless you are a teabaggee, that is...


Posted: March 15th, 2011 10:54 AM

Um Violet dearie, 146K is more than MOST people make in a lifetime. So, regardless if one would make it after one or 20 years, it is a great salary. Also, I don't state anywhere that this salary would be expected immediately. And lastly, I was being facetious (look up the meaning). Troll!!

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 10:49 AM

While you are at it, I would also suggest getting your IQ tested if that remark was serious. Because I cannot believe you really think that a first-year teacher is making over 100K. The salary is due to a long career. I would love to make 1/5th of that so unlike you, I celebrate those who don't make slave wages. I don't support a race to the bottom, in other words...


Posted: March 15th, 2011 9:57 AM

Are you serious? A driver's ed teacher is making 146K?!? Boy, am I in the wrong profession. I should go back to school to get a teaching certificate.

Frustrated from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 9:12 AM

It's also one of our inalienable rights as Americans to look at public school budgets that have become unnecessarily bloated with higher than reasonable salaries and vote no to a tax hike that only perpetuates the basic problem. Fire the overpaid driver's ed teacher, outsource it to a local driving school for less and save the taxpayer dollars...wait, you can't because he's tenured and part of the union? Oh, so that's why we keep paying more and getting less while the schools cry poor.

@objective from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 9:06 AM

Thanks for the information. I did a simple google search and found all D200's teacher salaries. It just never dawned on me that this would be public information, I assumed personal salaries would not be public but pay scales would be. I also read that it is required by law that all govt.-based agencies disclose pay information.

Objective from Oak Park  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 8:50 AM

Public schools are PUBLIC and so is salary information. Alot of people choose careers that offer opportunities for higher than average salaries. It's one of our inalienable rights as Americans.

@ Chicago Lampoon  

Posted: March 15th, 2011 12:13 AM

Mr.Chicago Lampoon, Who are you? and how do you have this information about these teachers. What are you trying to prove by listing their salaries. You want to be anonymous while you release such personal information about these teachers. You're a hypocrite. Shame on you. Even if you did have a legitimate concern, the message is lost by your tackless methods.

Chicago Lampoon  

Posted: March 14th, 2011 1:46 PM

Take a look below at these OPRF teachers' salaries. $146k drivers ed teachers? Will any of these candidates even dare to stand up to the teachers union? A 25% across-the-board cut in teachers' salaries would still leave these teachers in better financial shape than most of the families who pay their salaries in taxes.

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