D97 (OP Elementary School)

Election guide 2005

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By WEDNESDAY JOURNAL STAFF

Peter Barber

Background: 45, advertising account director. BA, journalism, Drake Univ., 1981.

Co-vice president of Beye PTO; founding member of Beye's parent band, Beye-O-Rhythms; member of African-American Heritage Committee at St. Catherine/St. Lucy Church.

Priorities: Barber says he would work to improve communications at Dist. 97 if elected, including improving dialogue between the board and community, listening to parent concerns, explaining board decisions, as well as finding ways at the school level to connect with all parents. He would push for creating a full-day kindergarten option at all Oak Park public schools. Continued instruction throughout the day would help struggling youngsters who later fall farther behind, increasing the achievement gap. Making it an option would allow other families freedom to decide. Barber is comfortable handling multi-million-dollar budgets, and says he would work with incoming Supt. Connie Collins on finding more grant money for the district.

Julie Blankemeier

Background: 40, family physician (former)/stay-at-home mom. BSM, Northwestern Univ.; MD, Northwestern University.

Founder and director, Genesis Center of Health and Empowerment, 2000; Holmes PTO vice president, 2003-04.

Priorities: Blankemeier wants to implement performance appraisal systems in the district to recognize successes and to hold people accountable?#34;from students in the classroom to the superintendent. Incoming Supt. Collins has a "track record of accountability," and the time is right to set expectations of her, Blankemeier says. Hiring consultants to review each of the district's eight elementary and two middle schools is financially irresponsible, she says. Blankemeier insists that to narrow the achievement gap, only one approach has been proven successful: lowering class sizes. She is critical of the district for not having a list of programs in place to address the gap. That indicates the lack of an overall plan, much less measurements of progress, she says.

Vic Guarino

Background: 39, mechanical engineer/ project manager. BS, mechanical engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology, 1987; MS, mechanical engineering, IIT, 1988; Ph.D., Public Policy Administration, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago, 1999.

Co-vice president of Irving PTO, 2003-present; Irving School Leadership Team, 2001-03; founding member of Irving Learning Community Initiative (LCI).

Priorities: Guarino wants to address the minority student achievement gap at Dist. 97 by replicating some best practices from the Irving LCI district-wide, including increasing home/school communication and providing parent-to-parent outreach and support. He'd also like to see increased reliance on and activity at the Multicultural Education Department and Resource Center. He'd like to see increased programming at each school, and for the department to be involved in outreach to African-American families.

Guarino would work for greater consistency in discipline policy, academic standards, differentiated instruction and staff performance evaluations across the district.

Carolyn Newberry Schwartz

Background: 46, social work professional (former)/stay-at-home mom. BA, religious studies, Carleton College (Minn.), 1980; graduate studies, social work, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago and Univ. of Washington, Seattle.

Elected to Dist. 97 board in 2001 as highest vote-getter; became vice president in 2002, making her the heir apparent to the presidency if re-elected. Since 2001, she has helped create and lead the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education (2003), the district's Finance Task Force (2002-03) and Legislative Advocacy Committee (2004). She serves as board liaison to the Brooks Critical Issues process.

Priorities: Looking ahead, Newberry Schwartz identifies the transition to new leadership as one of the board's lead priorities, and said she would involve school staff and the community in a district-wide strategic planning process. She also says accountability is important, and would "broadly publicize" district goals and report on them annually.

Kathryn Tortorice

Background: 45, doctor of pharmacy. BS, medical technology, Viterbo College (Wis.), 1981; BS, pharmacy, Univ. of Minnesota, 1987; Doctor of Pharmacy, Univ. of Minnesota, 1988.

Co-vice president for sixth grade, Brooks PTO. Member of Instructional Delivery Study Group in Brooks Critical Issues process. Catechist/confirmation mentor at Ascension Parish, where she served six years on its Religious Education Board.

Priorities: Tortorice, too, is calling for more performance measures and accountability at the district. "This will enable us to uncover areas for improvement, amend initiatives which may not be meeting full success and extend practices which have accomplished stated goals," she says. School-specific initiatives, such as Lincoln's Spanish-immersion program, should be analyzed to see how they impact test scores or other measures, then applied at other schools.

Tortorice will push for greater use of differentiated instruction at the middle schools, saying the topic should be at the fore when interviewing assistant superintendent of teaching and learning candidates.

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