I am writing to support and endorse Kate Odom for the District 97 school board. Kate stands out among all the candidates (and existing board members) from her professional background as a clinical psychologist. Mental health expertise would be a welcome addition to the D97 board, both right now and, even more importantly, to help guide the district forward and out of the pandemic. 

Kate is not only a child psychologist with experience working directly with students, she also has worked at the individual school and broad school district level. From her work at all these levels she has developed vast “person-centered” skills. She can balance opposing views effectively while always helping everyone involved stay focused on what is best for the students. 

She thrives in high-conflict situations and is experienced in guiding people with differing opinions to effective and efficient decisions while validating, respecting, and honoring all stakeholders. These skills are imperative moving forward to in-person learning, hiring a new superintendent, proceeding toward more equitable educational practices, and negotiating contracts with the teachers association. She would be an incredibly valuable addition to the board to lead, guide, and support the district through these many upcoming transitions and many other decisions that will have long-term impacts on the education and mental health of our youngest Oak Park citizens and the village as a whole.

Personally, I knew Kate when she first decided to run for the board and we had conversations about the district. She was very interested in a few topics that came from her professional background: understanding the district’s policies on discipline and its impact on equity, accessibility to services for all students, and how to build trauma-informed classrooms that help all students thrive. These were all critical issues that needed someone with her expertise to help guide the district. 

Then COVID happened. And while the initial focus was on making decisions for the physical health of our students and community, Kate was focused very early on understanding the impact on the mental health of our school district: students, teachers, staff, and parents. This area has not received enough focus and it is one that does not go away when the kids are back in class. We will be dealing with the mental health impacts and trauma of COVID for years to come and Kate is the ideal person to have on the School Board for those coming years. 

She brings a critical and unique perspective to the board that touches every issue, every student, and every adult in the district. I encourage everyone to vote for Kate Odom for D97 school board.

April Bowgren, Board certified behavior analyst and Oak Park mom

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