Endorsements for District 200

Incumbents on right track for OPRF

Opinion: Editorials

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Editorial

Four years ago Oak Park and River Forest High School faced a "change" election. And we endorsed John Allen, Ralph Lee and Sharon Patchak-Layman to be the agents of that essential change. Now, in 2011, District 200 needs to follow through on the changes initiated over the past years, and we enthusiastically endorse this same trio for re-election.

In 2007 we endorsed these first-time candidates for District 200 (Patchak-Layman served previously on the District 97 school board). We noted then that new voices and faces were needed to change a governance culture that was hidebound and increasingly ineffective. Patchak-Layman, Lee, and Allen have exceeded our expectations.

Overall the current board has seen its share of tensions — all three incumbents acknowledge that. That will happen when you are willing to take on the big issues in an institution averse to conflict. That's why the administration has been rebuilt, why there is a batch of new division chairs from outside the school. It's why the approach to discipline has been rethought and why data is now the basis for many difficult choices. It explains why, after years of denial, a frank discussion of drug and alcohol abuse is underway.

We believe the groundwork has been laid for OPRF to blossom in the coming years with changing expectations of how faculty teach the full spectrum of students at the school, with technology thoughtfully and aggressively layered into instruction, with, finally, a bolder approach to the achievement gap. The hiring of Superintendent Steven Isoye is the culmination of the positive changes at the school.

This is not to say that we have always agreed with the incumbents or the full board on key issues. The high school's lawsuit vs. the village and elementary schools is absurd and needs to be settled. OPRF has been running up preposterous fund balances by taking property taxes at a level far higher than is justifiable.

The true test, though, of this board, and a key reason we are endorsing this trio, is the coming negotiations on a new teacher contract. A far too rich five-year contract was signed by a previous board. Now we need a new, shorter contract that melds both fiscal restraint and education reforms including merit pay. Allen, Lee and Patchak-Layman are the best hope for a fair contract.

As for the challengers, all three are sincere but lack any strong vision for the school. Margaret Lattner Skiver is an OPRF parent who knows the difficulties of navigating the system if your kids are smart but fall within that realm between high- and low-achieving students. John Bokum is a long-time board watcher and frequent visitor to the monthly meetings. He is also a former OPRF employee and parent, giving him more of an understanding of how the school works than most candidates. John Phelan is the best of the challengers. He has been a volunteer coach at OPRF and also has children attending there. He has interests and insight on a wide range of issues.

But the incumbents have earned another term on the OPRF school board. This time around, we believe voters would be wise to stay the course.

Reader Comments

19 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy


Posted: March 24th, 2011 3:55 PM

Oak Grove, Is the chaff the 1st time she tried to get away from the board or the 2nd? The writing is on the wall. Maybe the Wheat is the lawsuit that the BOE brought using taxpayer$ money!! Out with the OLD and in with the NEW!!! I hope those that VOTE on April 5th in Oak Park and River Forest will embrace this.

Been There  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 1:19 PM

I will NOT be voting for any incumbent for D200. $80 million and they sue for more and want to charge $340 for books cause they don't have money. REALLY?! Lets get rid of these folks now.

Oakgrove from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 10:03 AM

OP, wonder if your fulltime position is vilifying and demonizing candidates you don't like? Who pays you I wonder.. I trust readers can separate the wheat from the chaff

Kelly O'Connor  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 7:20 AM

Another example of a poorly researched article by this paper. The drug and alcohol discussion is and has been out there because of the work of several hundred volunteers. Not because of Dist. 200 BOE. I have not heard any of these candidates explain what the current board plans are to address this issue. In 2009/2010 they identified D&A as something they were going to tackle. To this date nothing has been said by any member of what their plans are. Why so secretive? Accountable? To whom.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 5:45 PM

Sharon doesn't even want this job CLEARLY. If she did, why would she run for another elected office twice while being on the board. We need dedicated citizens as well as new blood and she DOES NOT fit that description. Im sure her mouth is watering since the Village Clerk election is only 2 yrs away. For the record I think Teresa Powell is doing an excellent job and deserves another 4 yrs if she chooses to run again. :-)

I agree! from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:25 PM

@Oakgrove. Sharon is the best. She is admittedly not a go-along-to-get-along bd member, but that's why I value her presence on first the D97 bd and now D200. Is she always right? Nope, but she raises impt pts. If OPRF benefits from nothing but 7-0 votes - then do NOT vote for Sharon. But if you desire true diversity (of thought) then please vote just for her (like my wife and I did on Monday!). Sharon, thanks for doing this!!!

Oakgrove from OP  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:16 PM

Sharon has my vote. I have admired her for many years for being willing to work for what she believes is right, not what the crowd likes. She always works and votes according to her conscience, something rare in Oak Park politics.

John Wild from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:03 PM

John Phelan is not only qualified to handle the challenges of the board, but also has the leadership qualities necessary to be successful in this type of position. His negotiating skills will prove invaluable. He is a compassionate and understanding individual who will care for our children's educational needs.

Bill Sullivan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 2:14 PM

John Phelan is an exceptional candidate. Voters - If you want someone who will truly represent your interests and the interests of our teens, vote for John.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:27 PM

Seems like Sharon has tried to use her previous involvement with the schools as a springboard for another failed elected position- that of Clerk of OP. She lost twice that I'm aware, possible more. It just shows that being a board member of Dist 200 isn't what she really wants?! She also was CENSURED while on this Dist 200 Board. Not a good record in my book.

Voting for Sharon  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:07 PM

correction - elected by the citizens of Oak Park AND River Forest. My sense of geography may be a little constricted by Sharon's is not.

Voting for Sharon  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:05 PM

Sharon Patchak-Layman certainly deserves your support and I am glad you have endorsed her. She knows that she is elected by the citizens of Oak Park and is willing and able to speak and act on their behalf. She will have my vote and hopefully many others as well!


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:26 AM

OUT with the OLD and in with the NEW. District 200 SUED OP and handled the Supt contract negotiations like CRAP!!! Sorry for my wording. They are sitting on $80 Million of Tax payers money and they sue? I thought these people are suppose to be professional.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:27 AM

(continued). In the end, the basis for your endorsement of the incumbents was your mistaken belief that they are best suited to deal with the upcoming teacher contract negotiation. Regarding John Phelan, you went to the trouble of noting that he coached youth football but you failed to mention that his real job in life is to negotiate collective bargaining agreements on behalf of ATT. It seems to me that would be a good skill set to have on the District 200 board.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:24 AM

What is most remarkable about this tepid endorsement of the incumbents are the significant facts that are missing. I find it hard to believe that he WJ could endorse Ms. Patchak-Layman without at least explaining away the fact that she was censured by the board for abusing her role as a board member to influence a matter on behalf of a friend. That is information that should be explained. But what is even more ominously missing is information about John Phelan.

John Grimes  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:40 AM

" John Phelan is the best of the challengers. He has been a volunteer coach at OPRF and also has children attending there. He has interests and insight on a wide range of issues "...., if only this candidate had experience in negotiating labor contracts ;)

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:36 PM

Very disappointing - WJ is critical of the high school bully suing other OP taxing districts, and yet endorse incumbents that support the bullying. Sorry WJ, I disagree and urge support for Phelan, Bokkum and - I have not made up my mind on the third...

OPRF deserves better  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:13 PM

You say "a key reason we are endorsing this trio is the coming negotiations on a new teacher contract" You can't be serious if that was truly the case why didn't you endorse John Phelan who actually has experience in negotiating union contracts. I've been to multiple forums and I can say without a doubt that John Phelan is the best candidate for this board. I urge everyone to do your homework and get informed. Do not use this papers endorsement as the end all be all.

Sincerely disagree with your endorsements  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:06 PM

I'm shocked that you endorsed these incumbents, one or two but all three. This OPRF board has made no meaningful change for our teens. Yes new superintendent and department heads but they had to hire new people. But what about the big issues we still have an achievement gap that hasn't even been touch these last 4 years and what about the College Prep group of kids that are being left behind. This board needs new faces that can actually lead and make decisions.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2017

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad