D200 (OPRF High School)

Election guide 2005

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By WEDNESDAY JOURNAL STAFF

Jacques Conway

Background: 42, OP police officer

BA, Loyola University, 1985; M.Div., Chicago Theological Seminary, 1995.

Commissioner, Park District of Oak Park (1999-2005), former OPRF coach, substitute teacher and residency investigator for OPRF.

Oak Park police officer for 21 years; school resource officer at OPRF.

Priorities: Conway says he believes OPRF is good at tracking data, but needs to connect on a more personal level with students and parents. He supports stepping up efforts to hire more minority teachers. He says the high school needs to promote a "sense of community," and that OPRF staff, students and parents should all be accountable for the quality of a student's education. He also lists fiscal responsibility as a top priority.

Valerie Fisher

Background: 57, attorney. BA, art history, Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1968; JD, Loyola Univ. of Chicago, 1983.

Elected to board in 1997, serving as president from 2003-04; served on other OPRF committees dating back to 1993; VMA selection committee (1996).

Priorities: Fisher did not seek re-election at first because of a long-held practice of stepping down after two terms, she says. But when caucus candidates asked her to run with them, she said she leapt at the chance and would serve the entire four-year term. Fisher sees rigorous academic challenge as the biggest issue facing OPRF, and has encouraged the recent philosophy of grading discussion. She'd like to see teachers meeting with the full-board Instruction Committee by division for in-depth discussions of each division's goals. And she'd like to see new approaches to discipline at the classroom level, with training to help teachers help students make better behavior decisions.

Dietra "Dee" Millard

Background: 57, physician, medical school professor. BA, College of Wooster, 1969; MD, Northwestern Univ., 1977.

Founder, co-leader and fundraiser of OPRF student trip to India; volunteer for two medical programs in India. This year's OPRF India student trip in April will force Millard to cast an absentee ballot.

Priorities: Millard wants to make teaching more innovative at OPRF by making classes smaller, bringing in community members and administrators for limited assignments, and increasing professional development opportunities for teachers. She's for holding the line on spending, and for hiring a full-time grant writer to help secure outside funding. Millard is also concerned about a gap?#34;the communication gap.

"Despite several vibrant active parent organizations at OPRF, there are some parents that feel disenfranchised from the school," she says, "faculty and staff who feel uncertain about their value to the school community. ... We need to promote more meaningful interaction between these various constituencies."

John Rigas

Background: 45, attorney, CPA, software company owner. BS, accounting and business administration, Illinois State Univ., 1981; JD, DePaul University, 1984.

River Forest trustee, 1987-1997; elected to Dist. 200 board in 2001 when he and four others ran unopposed, took lead in 2002 successful referendum and in recent certified teachers' contract negotiations.

Priorities: Rigas believes the minority achievement issue is "front and center" for the board. He supports continued involvement in the Minority Student Achievement Network, and increased ties with feeder districts to help identify at-risk students as early as possible. He'd like to see a "strong student mentor program" implemented to "help minority students understand what is required to be successful" at OPRF. He'd like increased cooperation with feeder districts to help with discipline, too, so incoming freshmen "understand what behavior is expected of them."

Paul Wolfman

Background: 55, attorney. BA, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.; JD, John Marshall Law School.

Elected to board in 2001 when he and four others ran unopposed; serves as vice president of board, would be heir apparent to presidency if re-elected.

Priorities: Wolfman hopes to improve articulation with Dist. 97, especially in the area of discipline. He says information exchange could improve and interventions at the elementary district could come earlier in a student's career, thus lowering incidents at OPRF. Wolfman says Principal/Supt. Susan Bridge will likely retire when her contract is up in 2007, giving the new board the weighty choice of a new lead administrator. Or two. Wolfman says it might be time to review the issue of separating the superintendent and principal duties into separate positions.

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