Candor, transparency and common sense

Opinion: Columns

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Steve Nations

I'm Steve Nations and I'm running for a seat on the District 200 school board. My wife and I have lived in Oak Park since 1996, and I know many of you through Beye School and Julian Middle School communities, Oak Park Youth Baseball where I coached my son's team for many years, Oak Park AYSO where I coached my daughter's team for even more years and served as the league's safety director.

I know many of you through the small business I have operated in Oak Park for the past nine years, Nations Home Inspections and Energy Ratings. But there are many Oak Park and River Forest residents I have yet to meet and ask for your vote in the election.

I want to be a D200 board member for a simple reason. My desire to serve and my skill set align with a big need: for a common-sense approach on the board to create a positive climate of public education in this community. The current climate needs improvement.

The D200 board has made some decisions that resulted in the so-called "tipping point" that changes opinions. Although just rescinded, the board's approval in December of a 2.5% tax levy increase when the school has nearly a two-year fund balance is a good example of a bad decision. It's great that there's a surplus; it sure beats a deficit. Common sense tells us that. But common sense also tells us there's a tipping point where the fund balances become too high and it erodes the trust between the district and the community.

There are other issues facing Oak Park and River Forest High School that require a common-sense approach. The achievement gap remains a serious and complex issue. Objective, long-term data shows us that early childhood education is an important intervention. I am in favor of using district money to support early childhood education for one reason only: the long-term data support it as a factor in secondary school success.

As a board member, I'll push for more "mining of the data" in educational research for other interventions. For example, a program championed as the "New Dorp Writing Revolution" shows that improved writing skill is another predictor of high school success. We should assess the curriculum of D200 and feeder school districts through the lens of this type of data-supported insight.

I also believe it's common sense to develop a long-range strategic plan for D200. Benefits of a long-range plan include accountability and transparency to the community regarding the allocation of financial resources. As a business owner, I am very familiar with developing measurable objectives for my business.

While there are numerous challenges, the greatest strength of D200 is the high school itself. OPRF is a "crown jewel" of this community and must be cared for. What the community needs is someone who will approach any issue with candor, transparency and most of all, common sense.

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