After considerable reflection and discussion with my family, I have decided to pursue a second term on the Oak Park and River Forest District 200 school board. With the hire of a new superintendent, I want to offer my continued support in executing the district’s strategic plan.
I originally ran for the board four years ago because I thought my business experience and perspective would be of benefit to the district and community. Having served now for nearly four years, I am more convinced of this.
While some try to paint the educational world as totally different from the business world, I humbly disagree. Soon after joining the school board, I participated on the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) that provided guidance in addressing the district’s fund balance surplus, including tax relief in excess of $30 million. More fundamentally, these changes reflected a shift from a philosophy of taking the maximum tax dollars allowable to one dedicated to seeking only what was needed. As Finance Committee Chair, I have helped reshape finance policy in line with some of the FAC recommendations, and I have continuously kept the board focused on the FAC model as decisions have been made.
Developing and implementing long-term facilities plans, inclusive of addressing the pools, is a critical need of the district. That has been a major challenge and has consumed considerable energy over the past four years. The very narrow defeat in the recent referendum for facilities reminds me that there is no easy solution to this complex problem, and while we have great community support for our educational institutions, our taxpayers are tapped out. This problem needs to be solved in a collaborative and responsible way.
I have worked with the administration and board to put into place the foundations of much-needed compensation discipline. This has started with a compensation structure for our administration, while outlining a compensation philosophy to assure consistency. There remains plenty of work to do in this critical area.
While participating on the D200 school board has been a tremendous time commitment, my overall experience has been one of learning and gaining appreciation for our students and those faculty, administrators and other public servants who dedicate their time to our students and community. I have seen the treasures that exist in our institution, while also being exposed to the multitude of challenges that still need to be tackled. I recognize and appreciate the value of seasoned school board experience.
We continue to see a gap in achievement among the different constituencies in our school. I believe that all students can succeed at OPRF. This is not simply an issue of resources, as our school is generously funded. Rather, it is one of focus and prioritization, assuring we put our resources (financial and human energy) where the greatest impact can be made.
I would greatly appreciate your support, allowing me to serve our students and community members for four more years.
Tom Cofsky is a member of the District 200 Board of Education and a resident of Oak Park.