While we appreciate Wednesday Journal’s efforts to keep residents updated and informed about important issues that impact the community, we felt compelled to clear up misperceptions created by the article “District 97 considers $4 million for new administration building in Oak Park.”

For the past several years, the district has studied the options for our administration building, which has begun leaking water in several locations. This has been part of an ongoing, open discussion about how we can and should bring many of our aging buildings up to an appropriate standard. While such conversations may produce disagreement, they are necessary to protect the investments we have made in our infrastructure and permit us to function in a cost-effective manner for years to come.

The discussion we had about the administration building during the Aug. 23 board meeting was part of a larger conversation about the options we have available for the future use of our Debt Service Extension Base. We will continue this process in the months ahead and will work closely with local leaders and community-led board committees, such as the Facilities Advisory Committee and Finance Oversight and Review Committee, to make a decision that is fiscally responsible and will enable us to meet the needs of the families we serve.

However, while we view this issue as important, we made several promises to the Oak Park taxpayers during the referendum campaign that we intend to keep. These promises, which include investments in the increased integration of technology in the classroom, enhancing programs such as foreign language, arts and music and transforming our schoolyards into innovative outdoor learning environments, are our top priority.

This year, we will be implementing the second phase of our technology plan, which will focus on increasing student access to technology and leveraging the use of hand-held technology. We are working closely with our art, music and foreign language teachers to identify ways we can better utilize our time, talents and resources to foster the creativity and ingenuity of our students. We are also in the initial stages of formulating a comprehensive, long-term plan for our schoolyards that will help our kids develop into 21st-century learners.

In terms of capital projects, our primary objective has been and will continue to be upgrading our school facilities to ensure that we are providing the children of Oak Park with a safe, nurturing learning environment that will help them succeed. In recent years, these projects have included the construction of two new middle schools, the installation of secured entrances at several of our buildings and the recent addition at Lincoln School.

On April 5, 2011, this village put its faith and trust in us to do what is best for the community. It was a show of support that we appreciate, an assignment of responsibility that we take seriously, and a call to action that we are prepared to carry out on behalf of the more than 5,500 students who attend our schools.

Peter Barber
Board President

Al Roberts

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