My family moved to Oak Park so that our two children could attend the District 97 schools. I am running for a spot on the school board because I want the best for my kids and yours.

I am a parent, educator and advocate for kids, with more than 10 years of experience teaching low-income and minority students to excel. My wife, Hannah, and I have a daughter in kindergarten at Irving Elementary School and a son in pre-K at First United Nursery School.

I am running as a candidate for the District 97 school board because I want to build on the success of our district. Over the past 10 years, our district has much to be proud of:

Implementing full-day kindergarten

Increasing minority hiring (26 percent of the 60 new hires last year were minority candidates)

Making adequate yearly progress as a district in 2010

Consistently increasing the percentage of students “meeting” standards on the ISAT over the last nine years

Decreasing the achievement gap for students scoring in the lowest 25 percent on every subject-area test of the ISAT for every grade level over the last 10 years

As a District 97 board member, I will build on these accomplishments and support programs to raise the bar and close the achievement gap in Oak Park.

As a teacher, I taught high school math and science for four years in public schools through a program called Teach for America. As a principal, I started and led a nonselective public school called KIPP Ascend Charter School that serves fifth- to eighth-grade students in North Lawndale. I led the school for six years. More than half of the graduates attend selective high schools — schools such as Andover, Latin, Loyola, Whitney Young and Trinity. The first three graduating classes accepted more than $3.4 million in scholarships and financial aid to top high schools.

As a parent and advocate, I want successful, well-rounded kids who are ready to take on the world. I will fight to sustain our arts and foreign language programs. For this reason, I fully support the April referendum.

Finally, as your representative, I will support fiscal efficiency. In this economic climate, every household has cut back, and I will work hard to improve programming while getting the most out of your tax dollars.

I look forward to talking with you over the coming weeks. Visit to learn more about my vision for District 97.

Jim O’Connor is an Oak Park resident who is running uncontested for one of four open seats on the District 97 Board of Education in the April 5 election.

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