The League of Women Voters of Oak Park and River Forest hosted a workshop Saturday for prospective candidates for the District 97 Board of Education and other elected offices in next year’s village elections.

About 14 people attended the Saturday morning workshop, which took place at the Dist. 97 board headquarters at 970 W. Madison St.

The workshop included current and former office holders who talked about running for and serving in office.

Next year’s election is April 17. The filing period for candidates running next April is from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5.

Dan Lesser, one of the workshop facilitators and former campaign manager for board president Carolyn Newberry Schwartz, said there are four parts to running for office: getting your campaign off the ground; mobilizing core support; dealing with the media; and having a strong final push down the stretch of the campaign.

But the first thing candidates should do is line up support.

“The biggest advice I can give is that you’ve got to get help for your campaign, and get help early,” Lesser said. “Inexperienced candidates are sometimes reluctant to ask for help and I just think that’s a mistake. There are a lot of people around you. You’ve got friends, you’ve got acquaintances. They are all very grateful to you because you’re willing to run and serve and make sacrifices for four years.”

Lesser said it would cost between $3,000 and $5,000 to run a respectable campaign, though other facilitators said it could cost more. Fliers, signs, buttons and media advertisements go into those costs, facilitators said.

Candidates, Lesser said, should hire a treasurer to manage their campaign’s finances, and hire a scheduler to manage appearances at events. One of the main events are ‘coffees’ held at a person’s home with likely supporters.

Facilitators said getting out at school events, such as PTO events, and meeting people directly was equally important.

Saturday’s other workshop facilitators were Marcia Frank, Dist. 97 Board of Education member, Tom Philion, a member of the Park Board of Commissioners for the Park District of Oak Park, and Nancy Leavy, a former member of the District 200 Board of Education.

Frank talked about the issues the next Dist. 97 board would face, which include the district’s strategic plan, teacher contract negotiations and program and curriculum evaluations. Frank also mentioned the district’s budget several times.

Other facilitators talked about what entails serving on a board, including the amount of time it takes.

Facilitators said the time spent deliberating on a board, in committees and attending events can vary from 30 hours a month to 30 hours a week, depending on the board.

“You don’t have to give your life over to this and I don’t think you should,” said Leavy.

Philion, who said he is not running for re-election next April, said being a good researcher while running, and serving, is a good practice for candidates.

“There are a lot of different perspectives out there, and there are a lot of different people and diversity in Oak Park. And in one way or another, you’ve got to find a way to engage with that,” he said. “When you’re pushing any kind of issue, you’ve got to be aware of those different perspectives.”

Philion noted that board members will have to take unpopular positions despite the community’s unrest, and that members themselves will have to take the lead on an issue or decision.

“An important part of being a board member is kind of being behind your executive director or superintendent when they make a decision or when your board makes a decision, even if you perhaps disagree with that. If the board as a whole makes a decision, then it’s part of your responsibility to help people understand the rationale for that decision,” Philion said.

Frank, elected to the Dist. 97 board in 2003, said she will not seek re-election to a second term next April. She joins follow board member and first-termer Dan Burke in not seeking re-election in ’07.

She said she’s not running because of her new position as operations manager and director for the Oak Park River Forest Children’s Chorus and the time that will take away from serving on the board. Frank added that she wants to spend more time with her family.

“These past four years have been exhilarating but also exhausting,” she said. “We’ve gone through a lot of transition, and that’s taking a considerable amount of time, and I think I’ve missed out on some family time that I’d like to get back to.”


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