This is the first time Bob Spatz, president of the District 97 Board of Education, is running in a contested election and that’s the way he likes it.

“A contested race is much better for the community as a whole,” he said.

Spatz, one of 10 candidates vying for four open seats on the D97 school board, said he believes the heightened participation in this year’s election is due primarily to his colleagues, Denise Sacks and the late Peter Traczyk, announcing early their decisions not to seek reelection — and less to do with public fallout in the wake of a 2011 referendum to raise property taxes.

“The public clearly knew there were two open seats,” Spatz said. “That influenced things [and] influenced people to try it out.”

As for the referendum, Spatz said several of the candidates in the race, such as Holly Spurlock, weren’t living in Oak Park when the referendum occurred.

Regardless of the candidates’ motivations for entering the race, Spatz said he welcomes the kind of public dialogue that happens during contested races. It’s a dialogue he wants to get out in front of by emphasizing his past achievements.

Elected in 2007, the computer engineering grad and director of technology at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business said he’s most proud of his role in crafting the 2013 intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between districts 200 and 97 and the village of Oak Park to fund the Collaboration for Early Childhood Education.

A close second is his work, along with late board member Traczyk, in negotiating the district’s most recent teacher contract, which even his opponents have praised as something of a game-changer in teacher compensation.

Spatz said he took a lead role in designing the contract’s financial components, which include replacing the teachers’ traditional compensation system of “25 steps and eight lanes — a model that is a staple among public school districts across the country — with a new compressed salary schedule that features ‘four bands and five recognitions that emphasize teacher effectiveness,'” according to a Wednesday Journal report published this year.

Spatz said his focus, if reelected, would be to make sure those achievements are implemented in a way that ensures they last.

Spatz said he’s focused on ensuring that there’s a smooth transition between the tenure of outgoing Superintendent Al Roberts and that of his successor. He also wants to pave the way for a relatively low-friction transition from the previous teacher contract to the new one. And he wants to remove the rough spots in the experience of students transitioning from the middle schools to Oak Park and RiverForestHigh School.

“Governmental structures should not be barriers to students’ education,” he said, adding that the process of going from one district to another should be transparent to students and their parents.

“You never get transformative change in one shot,” Spatz said. “It takes a least a couple.”

Bob Spatz Bio

Born in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, Bob Spatz moved to Oak Park when he was in elementary school. A graduate of OPRF and the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, he’s been employed with the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP), where he serves as director of technology.

His son is an OPRF alumnus. Spatz and his wife, an early childhood educator, were influential in founding the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education. First elected to the District 97 school board in 207, Spatz also sits on, and is active in, numerous other voluntary boards and community organizations. He’s seeking his third term in office. 

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