Continuity on the D200 board will move the district forward

Opinion: Columns

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By Tom Cofsky

Candidate One View

People often move to Oak Park and River Forest because of their schools, and they leave because of the taxes. We must keep our high school strong, supporting the needs of all students, while being fiscally responsible to our taxpayers. 

For the past four years, I have served on the District 200 Board of Education. During that time, I have worked tirelessly, balancing the needs of all students with being fiscally accountable to our taxpayers. Early in my term I was on the Financial Advisory Committee, charged with developing a long-term plan to right-size the district's fund balance. We recommended and implemented over $30 million in tax cuts, while also reserving $20 million for anticipated facilities improvements. 

As Finance Committee chair, I led the revision of our fund balance policy to better control fund balance management. I have been an advocate for establishment of a compensation policy and structure for our administration that will ultimately link performance to compensation. 

I supported our students in many initiatives, including: 

1) the expansion of counseling resources; 

2) the implementation of our 1:1 technology plan, assuring every student has access to technology; 

3) the start of our Leadership/Launch program to develop leaders and mentor relationships; and 

4) the initiation of Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), challenging students to increase class rigor and take AP classes for the first time.

Most importantly, our board hired a new superintendent to lead the strategic plan of our district. We searched for, and found, a courageous leader experienced in the challenges that we face at OPRF High School.

There remain plenty of challenges ahead. We must fully execute the Strategic Plan, taking the direction originally outlined and developing clear, measurable goals for those in a leadership role in the district to relentlessly pursue.

We must continue to strive for greater equity so that all students achieve their full potential. This will require an unwavering commitment to take bold action in removing barriers that result in inequity. 

With 75 percent of district costs going toward staff compensation, collective bargaining agreements play an enormous role in the district's financial future. Our faculty contract will soon be renewed, and I have over 10 years of experience in contract negotiations, both at OPRF and in my business. We must be able to continue to attract and retain the staff needed to support our students while carefully watching long-term costs.

Lastly, a widely supported long-term facilities plan must be quickly reached by reviewing the extensive work done thus far, considering differing views, and finding agreement on the critical needs of our students.

Being on the school board has been both humbling and a tremendous learning experience. I am passionate about the success of our students, and I am committed to protecting the precious resources of our taxpayers. Continuity on the school board and supporting our new superintendent will allow us to continue to drive this district forward. 

I ask for your vote.

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