D200 school board member resigns from board

Conway steps down, touts former member Allen as replacement


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

In a surprise announcement, District 200 school board member Jacques Conway announced last week that he's resigning from the Oak Park and River Forest High School board.

The two-term trustee also urged his fellow members to appoint former board member John Allen, who lost a bid for re-election on April 5, as his replacement. Allen told Wednesday Journal the day after Conway's announcement that he would accept an appointment if offered.

Conway, 49, was elected to the school board in 2005 and again in 2009. He announced his resignation during the board's May 26, regularly meeting. Conway said he's unable to devote the time needed to continue serving on the board. His resignation took effect immediately following the conclusion of last Thursday's meeting.

Listen to audio of Conway's resignation.

He's leaving to focus on his position as director of a South Side Chicago nonprofit that helps youth. But he's also stepping down to deal with a personal financial matter involving his River Forest home and other properties that he and his wife own. Conway said he originally intended to resign last fall but decided to stay on until after the April election.

An emotional Conway explained that those properties now belong to U.S. Bank. Conway had a commercialized loan against the properties with Park National Bank but that deal fell through when U.S. Bank absorbed Park National in late 2009. Conway also worked at Park National but lost his job, along with many other employees, after the takeover.

The properties, he said, were used as collateral for a loan taken out on a building on the South Side of Chicago. Conway and his wife bought the building through their nonprofit organization and planned to use it as a job and business development center. Park National, Conway explained, had financed a short-term loan taken out on the building to be used for renovation.

"Several months before Park National Bank was taken over by the FDIC, and before the paperwork for the new loan was completed and submitted to the bank's owner who agreed to OK the deal, U.S. Bank called for full payment of that loan," Conway said, reading from a statement. "At the time that the demand for full payment of the loan was made, all of our loans were current. My wife and I were not in a position to write a six-figure check to U.S. Bank."

Conway said U.S. Bank at first was going to foreclose on the properties, including his River Forest home, but agreed to allow his family to remain until a buyer surfaces.

"I appealed to the chairman and CEO of U.S. Bank, Mr. Richard Davis; I asked Mr. Davis how could his bank within several months fire an employee and then threaten to make that same former employee and his family homeless?" Conway said.

With his household situation unsettled, Conway said he and his wife decided to pull their son, who's currently a junior, out of OPRF and enroll him in another school out of state, not wanting to disrupt his son's senior year given the family's uncertain situation. His wife was also able to find work in that state.

After his announcement, his fellow board members gave Conway a standing ovation. Board President Dietra Millard then spoke of Conway and his time on the board.

"It's an understatement to say how much you'll be missed. Your perspective is unique; it is irreplaceable," she said.

A River Forest resident, Conway is a former Oak Park police officer, OPRF school resource officer through the department, and a former on-staff residency officer. He was also a substitute teacher and coached at the school.

In 2006, Conway became the first African-American Oak Park police officer to reach retirement, having served on the force for 22 years. An ordained minister, Conway is pastor of Neighborhood United Methodist Church in Maywood, and previously ministered at a church in Englewood on the South Side.

John Allen, who spoke by phone last Friday with Wednesday Journal, said he would accept an appointment to rejoin the board if that were to occur. He also praised Conway as a "voice on the board that everyone listened to."

Reader Comments

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Posted: May 31st, 2011 12:47 PM

I'm not completely acquainted with the circumstances, but if anyone is looking for another reason to move your money out of US Bank, this is it.

Dolores from Oak Park  

Posted: May 28th, 2011 5:20 PM

Very compassionate, T.J. from Oak Park.

Robert Zeh from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: May 28th, 2011 12:40 PM

This is horrible news for the Conways. Appointing John Allen, who was fourth in a vote for three election, is the logical thing to do. The alternatives are either some one who didn't run for the board at all, or who received less votes than John Allen.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 28th, 2011 9:55 AM

Rejecting and not winning an election are way different. This wasnt a recall vote. It just so happens that the new candidate received a bunch of votes and an incumbent didnt get as many. No more, no less.

Sad to hear from River Forest  

Posted: May 28th, 2011 9:47 AM

This is, of course, heartbreaking news. My heart goes out to the Conway family. And nearly as heartbreaking is the possibly of the old boys network appointing a somebody to replace Mr. Conway whom the voters rejected in April. Never should a candidate who lost an election be appointed to the body for which the voters rejected his candidacy.

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: May 28th, 2011 7:33 AM

Mr. Conway got himself into a major finacial mess. I hope he did a better job managing the school's finances during his many years on the school board. I certainly find myself questioning his judgement.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 27th, 2011 8:24 PM

Wasnt Mr. Conway a pastor in Maywood? Did he or his wife loose a paying job? Doesnt he get a pension for being an OP PO? Sorry to hear about one of the good guys.

OPRF parent and alumn  

Posted: May 27th, 2011 7:54 PM

A loss and a sadness. Best of luck to you, Mr. Conway. You'll be missed.

Edgar Hiestand from Oak Park  

Posted: May 27th, 2011 5:46 PM

We just heard the words of a good man -- something we already knew, but these problems are so unfair. Our prayers are with him and his family.

chicagoteacher from oak park   

Posted: May 27th, 2011 11:21 AM

Mr Conway has been a support for children in community for many years.I hope that his family situation works out. I am glad to see that he will be working with kids in need.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: May 27th, 2011 8:17 AM

I am very sorry to hear about Jacque's financial challenges and his resignation. He has been an exemplary leader in our community and has devoted his time and talent to our youth. I wish Jacque all the best during this difficult time and appreciate the positive legacy of his community involvement. It's great to read of his continued involvement in advancing the opportunity for all young people.

OPRF parent  

Posted: May 27th, 2011 8:06 AM

Jacques Conway's resignation is a great loss to the Board of Education, OPRFHS and its students. If more members of the BoE possessed his clear, unbiased voice of reason, the school would be a much better place. I thank him for his time and effort, and I wish him and his family the very best.

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