2005 Wednesday Journal Endorsements
This is an exciting time in District 97, and this is also perhaps the most exceptional field of candidates we saw for any board in Oak Park. We would have no qualms about the election of any one of these candidates. But, our top choices are:
? Carolyn Newberry-Schwartz is incredibly knowledgeable about the wide range of issues facing the district. We are excited about a number of initiatives she proposes, including drafting a new strategic plan, and more clearly identifying the "mission" of the middle schools. We also have confidence that she will not be afraid to seriously consider making reasonable budget cuts as financial pressure on the district increases.
? Peter Barber is a bright, enthusiastic candidate who is capable of setting real priorities in the district. For instance, if all-day Kindergarten is a priority in the community, he believes it is the school board's responsibility to find a way to do it, and we agree. We believe he has a strong ability to reach out to parents and get them more involved in the school, and support his efforts to more carefully track what programs have been successful in the schools.
? We believe that Julie Blankemeier will be an independent force on this board to be reckoned with, and that is always exciting to see on a board that often seems to suffer from "group think" and too much reliance on the superintendent. We are impressed by her dedication to instituting performance measurements across the district as a way to help prevent "crisis" situations from popping up periodically at individual schools, as they have over the years. We also like her emphasis on the need to have open, honest discussions about race.
? Vic Guarino is the real deal, doing good work in helping turn Irving School in a very positive direction. In a field of strong candidates, he is a near miss for us. If elected, however, he would be a strong, independent-minded candidate. And we think he has a lot of good ideas on how to create a more welcoming atmosphere for parents.
? Kathy Tortorice is also certainly a strong, intelligent candidate and we value her experience with the school improvement process at Brooks. We like her interest in instituting similar processes at all Oak Park schools. However, she strikes us as a little less independent than the other candidates.