The seven-member District 97 Board of Education has new leadership, with former board vice president James Gates replacing outgoing president Robert Spatz and board member Amy Felton stepping into the vice president position. They were both selected unanimously by their fellow board members at a meeting on May 5.

New members Rupa Datta and Holly Spurlock were sworn in along with reelected members Spatz and Jim O’Connor. Datta and Spurlock replace outgoing board member Denise Sacks and the late Peter Traczyk, both of whom had opted not to seek reelection.

Sacks, who was elected in 2011, was praised by her fellow board members and presented with a proclamation for her four years of service. Felton described Sacks as “by far the best listener” she’s encountered, and board member Graham Brisbane praised Sacks for her good judgement and wisdom.

“She was an influencer on this board,” Brisbane said.

The board also lauded Craig Iseli, who was appointed to the board temporarily in March after Traczyk’s untimely passing. Gates said Iseli, a chemical company executive, exceeded the board’s expectations and praised him for his decision-making poise.

“I meant what I said when I said when I grow up, I want to have your personality, your demeanor, your calmness and your reflective nature,” said Gates. “I know you’re working full-time, but you’ve got a job as my life coach going forward,” he quipped.

The board also effusively praised Spatz’s two years as president, with members citing what Brisbane called “the monumental and complex tasks undertaken” by the governing body with Spatz at the helm.

“I’m going to venture to guess that the board, in the last two years under Bob’s leadership as president, probably accomplished as much or more than any other board in [the district’s] history,” Brisbane said, citing the pending construction of a new administrative building, the process of hiring a new superintendent and the new teacher contract—the latter of which is set to run through 2017-18 school year.

New board president Gates, a former D97 teacher who in the past served multiple terms as president of the Oak Park Teachers Association (OPTA), may likely oversee the first negotiations between the OPTA and the board since the new teacher contract was agreed upon in January of this year.

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