Sara Spivy has decided not to run for a third term on the Oak Park and River Forest School District 200 Board of Education after all. After initially deciding not to run, she filed to run for another term on the last day of petition filing. Her reasoning then was that she thought the race would be uncontested or not enough candidates would file to run to fill the three positions up in the April 4 election, Spivy found out that three other candidates also filed on the last day to run for the OPRF school board leaving five candidates running for three positions. Last week Spivy withdrew from the race and her name will not be on the ballot.
“I guess it’s really a 360,” Spivy told Wednesday Journal about her decision to withdraw from the race. “I was initially not planning on running again just because eight years is a lot of time and I believe firmly that the community should have fresh perspectives on all of its boards.”
Before deciding to withdraw from the race Spivy, who served as board president for two years, met with the other four candidates. She has decided to endorse three of them: Graham Brisben, Tim Brandhorst, and Jonathan Livingston. The other candidate on the ballot is Brian Souders, who has been a critic of OPRF spending in general and the controversial $99.5 million Project 2 plan to renovate many of the physical education spaces in the building including building a new swimming pool. Souders also has said that any decision about borrowing money to pay for Project 2 should be made by voters in a referendum.
“I met with each one of them individually, sort of talked to them about their platforms and what they cared about and what they thought they could bring to the board and at the end of those conversations I had three people that I’m strongly supportive of and so I decided to step back and let them, hopefully, get elected and govern for the next four years,” Spivy said.
Brisben is a former member of the Oak Park Elementary School District 97 school board who ran unsuccessfully for the Oak Park Village Board in 2019 when he finished last in a field of 11 candidates.
“I’ve known Graham for a long time and I find him to be very sensible and calm under pressure and very organized and meticulous,” Spivy said. “He’s also got a lot of experience in the community, both from the D97 board and from having a raised a family and having a child go through OPRF, two children if I’m not mistaken.”
Brandhorst, the only candidate who filed to run prior to the last day of filing, has been a vocal supporter of Project 2. He also earned Spivy’s support.
“Tim Brandhorst has deep roots in the community,” Spivy said. “I also think it’s important that we have River Forest representation on the board which we will not have once Ralph Martire steps down. So I think he brings geographic diversity which is really important. He’s also served on many, many committees for the high school so he has a lot of experience.”
Spivy was also impressed by newcomer Livingston who moved to Oak Park three years ago.
“Jonathan was brand new to me,” Spivy said. “After meeting with Jonathan, I found him to be a very sort of introspective and reflective person who I think will take the facts as they come and weigh them with the care and consideration that they deserve and ultimately make good decisions.”
Spivy was impressed by Livingston’s commitment to equity and his focus on expanding vocational training at OPRF. She also liked that Livingston has a PhD in public administration which she said should be helpful on the school board.
“Public schools are just an arm of the state ultimately so I think he can bring some really interesting perspectives,” Spivy said.