Rita Kahn, a development coordinator for the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry and former human resources executive, admits that she’s something of a chameleon when it comes to careers.
“I have worn many hats,” said Kahn, who hopes to add District 97 board member to her collection of professional experiences in the upcoming April 7 elections.
The race includes nine other candidates competing for four vacant seats on the board. The candidates include incumbents Bob Spatz and Jim O’Connor.
Kahn, 42, believes that what separates her from the pack, however, is her diversity of experiences. She’s an extended leave tutor at York Community High School and has also taught at Oak Park and River Forest High School; has a master’s in education from Dominican University in River Forest; and a master’s in labor relations from Michigan State University.
It’s that latter credential that lends a bit of irony to an issue about which Kahn has so far been the most outspoken candidate in the field — the soon to retire D97 Superintendent Al Roberts.
“I would not have offered him an extension,” Kahn said plainly. “Absolutely not. Based on what I know, he doesn’t listen and therefore he doesn’t understand the needs of the district,” she said.
In 2012, the D97 board gave Roberts a three-year extension, along with a two percent raise. Kahn said that she questions the board’s decision to renew that contract.
Kahn said that, in the wake of Roberts’s June retirement, the board should make it a priority to search for a new superintendent “who will listen to, and be capable of evaluating, what’s going on in the district and to make a decision based on that information.”
Kahn added that, if elected, she would also work to unify the district and provide teachers with more resources and support to do their jobs effectively in the classroom.
“Right now, we have 10 great schools operating independently somewhat,” she said, adding that the steps Roberts has taken to centralize the district’s resources “can be taken further.”
Kahn said that her background in market research would be valuable, because “I do understand how to analyze data and use it to make good decisions.”
One end to those analytic means would be strengthening the administration’s support for teachers, who are often on the front lines of the battles that administrators and elected officials wage from afar, she said.
“I want to promote the effectiveness of classroom teachers, who are being asked to do more and more in the course of a single school day,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re supporting their ability to do what matters most.”