Three seats are open on the District 200 school board with six candidates running for office. What follows was supplied to Wednesday Journal and by the candidates.

John C. Allen, IV

Inspector General for Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services

Current or previous elected office(s) you have run for:
Current School Board Member of District 200, elected in 2007

Running independently

Primary reason for running:
As I complete my first term on the high school board, I find that there are still numerous issues that I want to continue working on for another term. I feel that the school has made great progress in creating an equitable educational environment for all students, regardless of their racial or cultural background. As chairman of the Finance committee and past chair of the now dissolved Human Resources Committee, I am constantly striving to keep a good balance between funding successful programs and using taxpayer funds wisely. This year, the high school has started a process by which it will evaluate itself with a goal of establishing a continuous improvement cycle similar to what the Baldridge method describes. It is my hope that more work on these vital components of the education process will strengthen the institution and assure significant achievement for all students and families.

John B. Bokum

Business Consultant

Current or previous elected office(s) you have run for:

Running independently

Primary reason for running:
I am running for OPRFHS Board of Education, District 200 because I feel that I can make a significant difference over the next four years working with the New Superintendent Dr. Steven Isoye, Principle, Mr. Nathaniel Rouse, Faculty/New Department Heads, Administrators, Buildings & Ground, Security, Secretaries, Teachers Aids plus all stake holders from Oak Park & River Forest. To meet the numerous challenges District 200 will face during the next four years I am grounded in the belief that sound commune sense judgment on tough choices will help OPRFHS move forward as an Institution of Higher Education & Learning. ” Those Things That are Best Will Become Better”.

Margaret Lattner Skiver

IT Manager

Community / Political experience:
Volunteer at local parochial schools and at Ascension.

Other / Professional experience:
Taught for six years at St. Luke School in River Forest.

BS in Information Systems from Purdue University
30+ hours towards Masters in Education

Primary reason for running:
I believe that one of the top challenges facing this board is strengthening the curriculum for the college preparatory group of students. I feel that this group of students has the least amount of attention given. I would push for redesign of the core curriculum for college preparatory and also push for more professional development in differentiated instruction.

Ralph H. Lee

Retired teacher and academic administrator

Current or previous elected office(s) you have run for:
Current member, District 200 Board of Education.

Running independently

Primary reason for running:
I am running because, as a teacher at OPRF for sixteen years through 1999, I developed a first-hand knowledge of the excellent job that we are doing in meeting the educational needs of many students, as well as the not-so-excellent job in meeting the educational needs of other students. I am proud of our performance in the one area, and I want to be just as proud of what we are doing in the other. I believe I know how to do both without sacrificing the needs of the students currently being served well. We have made significant progress over the past three years, and I want to help consolidate and build on the progress we have made. I also want to help do two other things: (1) Keep costs to taxpayers from escalating beyond our current residents’ ability to support them and (2) advocate for programs that are specifically designed to help large numbers of students develop the ability to make wise decisions regarding the use of drugs of all kinds.

John Phelan


Community / Political experience:
Oak Park and River Forest Youth Football, Head Football Coach 2004-2007, Assistant Coach 2010
Oak Park and River Forest Youth Football Board Member 2007-2008
River Forest Youth Basketball, Head Coach 2008-2009
River Forest Youth Baseball, Assistant Coach, various years
Way Back Inn, Inc., Board Member 2002-2007, President 2005-2006
Lawyers in the Classroom, current volunteer
Lawyers Assistance Program – trained as intervener

Other / Professional experience:
2/02 – Present: AT&T, General Attorney
3/95 – 2/02 Lord, Bissell & Brook, Chicago, IL, Associate Attorney / Partner
8/92 – 3/95 Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff, Tichy & Mathiason, San Francisco, CA, Associate Attorney
1/91 – 1/92 Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins, Chicago, IL, Law Clerk
12/88 – 8/90 Illinois Senate Staff, Chicago/Springfield, IL, Judiciary Committee Staff
10/87 – 12/88 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 37, New York, NY, Political Action Intern
6/85 – 8/85 Kitchens of Sara Lee, Deerfield, IL, HR Intern

Oak Park and River Forest High School, 1983
Cornell University, BS Industrial and Labor Relations 1987
DePaul University College of Law, JD 1992
Moot Court Society: Treasurer ’91-’92

Negotiations Intramural Co-champion ’89 and ’90
Intramural Appellate Advocacy Runner-up ’90
Four national appellate competitions
1991 National Health Law Competition semi-finalist

Primary reason for running:
The top challenge facing the Board is finding methods to improve academic achievement for all students with an emphasis on closing gaps, and to do so in a cost-effective manner.

Our communities support a high school with a storied history that does many things well, but our current achievement results are not what they should be. Only 50% of juniors, and only 10% of ten African Americans, were deemed “”college ready”” in all four tested categories based on ACT College Ready Benchmark scores as reflected in a September 2010 report from District 200. The disaggregated results show inconsistency by subject matter, race and general versus special education, which provides guidance on areas ripe for improvement. The Board needs to efficiently and effectively implement strategies to address inconsistent results and turn OPRF into a college ready institution for all students we serve.

Above all, student achievement needs to be improved with an emphasis on addressing gaps. We need to study similar schools that have become exemplary and implement their proven methods. I believe that the secret of exceptional achievement is great teaching and more of it, provided in a culture where teachers, parents, students and the administration are motivated to succeed. My experience is that OPRF has great teachers, but not consistently great teaching. It has motivated students, but not enough students are motivated and not enough of the time. I believe we can improve achievement by committing to a focused and sustained effort using methods described in How Schools Become Exemplary: Ways that Leadership Raises Achievement and Narrows Gaps By Improving Instruction In 15 Public High Schools, The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University (2009). This study provides a proven roadmap to improved academic achievement for all students, and a means of narrowing the gaps that have plagued District 200 for too long. Regarding motivation, I believe that focus on reducing substance abuse among students and developing best in class co-curricular activities will reduce academic malaise and foster relationships between students and faculty sponsors that can have a significant, positive impact upon achievement.

Some are content that our achievement exceeds local, state and national averages. As a student and community member all my life, I have never known the residents of this District to be satisfied with comparisons to “average.” Our children are no longer competing with other students locally, in Illinois or even in America. We have to keep striving to become better.

A disciplined, efficient and focused Board is essential to moving forward with the effort to improve student achievement. The Board’s primary role is to hire talented administrators and provide them with policies and financial oversight that enable them to implement effective and cost effective improvements. The Board must inspire the many stakeholders in OPRF — teachers, parents, taxpayers, administration — to work together to achieve these goals. A unified effort is necessary to raise the expectations of students and teachers while building the trust and enthusiasm necessary for success. My broad knowledge of the high school and community, my twenty years experience as a labor and employment attorney, and my commitment to our future can help the District to achieve these goals.

Sharon Patchak-Layman

Landscape services

Current or previous elected office(s) you have run for:
District 97 – Board Member 1999-2007
District 200 – Board Member 2007-7011

Running independently

Primary reason for running:
I have worked on education and civic issues in Oak Park for 34 years. All three of my children attended Longfellow, Julian and OPRFHS. As my children grew, I taught in early childhood programs, co-owned a children’s bookstore and volunteered at Longfellow School. In addition to my education activities, I have worked for open and responsive government, serving on health agency boards, participating with the League of Women Voters of Chicago, advocating for Tax Increment Funding (TIF) reform and working with neighbors to inform local government decisions.

I believe that OPRFHS can provide an excellent education for all students. I envision a school that cares about every one of its students, that seeks new ways to meet their needs, and that invites public discussion and transparency in its decision-making.


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