By Terry Dean
While the school board election for the high school has yielded more than a dozen candidates running to serve on the District 200 board, Oak Park's elementary school District 97 is again an uncontested race.
That surprised Graham Brisben, a candidate for the D97 board who'll be elected to one of three open seats on Tuesday, April 9. Incumbents Amy Felton and James Gates will secure another term on the board—Felton will win a full term after serving out the remainder of former trustee Jennifer Reddy's term.
Brisben, who owns a consulting and management services company, thought the race would be contested. A father of two D97 students, this is Brisben's first time running for any elected office. He said the time was right for him to run.
He and his wife have lived in Oak Park since 2005. Brisben, 45, was born in Scotland but grew up in Iowa and describes himself as an entrepreneur with a strong belief in "solving problems."
He said he likes and respects the current board and described Supt. Albert Roberts as a "strong leader with very clear ideas on how he wants to lead the district." Among the key issues he plans to focus on, he says, is hiring a likely new superintendent. Roberts, 64, who's led the district since 2010, was given a three-year contract extension by the board in September 2012. Graham, though, says Roberts might not serve out that deal, given his age and considerable time he's spent in education. But Brisben stressed he thinks Roberts has done a good job as superintendent.
Brisben also credits the board for its stewardship of the district's finances. Another of his goals is to continue to use taxpayer dollars wisely. He also wants to focus on improving how teachers and principals are evaluated, as well as help negotiate the next teacher's contract in 2014.
D200 candidate forum Saturday at Oak Park Public Library
A forum with the District 200 school board candidates is scheduled for Saturday, March 23 at Oak Park Library, 834 Lake St., hosted by the League of Women Voters of Oak Park and River Forest.
The hopefuls have met in several forums this month, including one hosted by the student newspaper at Oak Park and River Forest High School and one on March 14 at Irving Elementary School.
It was a small gathering of two-dozen constituents and 10 D200 candidates at a March 7 forum hosted by Buzz Café, 905 S. Lombard. The candidates in attendance were: D200 incumbent Terry Finnegan, Tom Cofsky, Julie MacCarthy, John Bokum, Steve Nations and Steve Gevinson, as well as Jackie Moore, Jeff Weissglass, Melanie McQueen and Eric Davis.