Kabreab Henry as he announces his resignation | Bob Skolnik

There is now a vacancy on the Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 Board of Education. Kebreab Henry, the only Black member of the school board, resigned from the board Thursday evening because he is moving out of state to be closer to his aging parents. Henry was elected to the school board in 2021. The school board now has 60 days to fill the vacancy.

The D200 board will seek applications or letters of interest from those interested in serving on the school board, interview some or all of the applicants and then choose someone to serve out the remaining 23 months of Henry’s term. The precise procedure and timeline of the application process has yet to be determined but a notice specifying the details of the process is expected to be released on May 30.

Typically school boards interview applicants to fill vacancies in closed session, discuss the applicants in closed session and then vote in open session to choose the replacement board member. New OPRF board member Tim Brandhorst suggested at the school board meeting Thursday evening that at least part of the interviews with applicants be done in open session so that the public can view the process.

“I think that transparency is important,” Brandhorst said.

Interviews can be done in open session if the school board so chooses.

During his two years on the school board Henry was unafraid to speak his mind in a blunt manner. He typically stated his opinions clearly and focused on key issues trying to move the discussion forward. Prior to being elected to the school board in 2021 Henry served on the school’s culture, climate and behavior committee. In his parting remarks from the board table on Thursday Henry said he was confident that the school and the school board would continue to make progress without him. 

“As I depart, not just OPRF, but Oak Park and the state of Illinois, I can leave here feeling comfortable and confident that the next board will carry this torch and keep fighting for the kids that can’t really fight for themselves,” Henry said.

Henry, who grew up in Florida, said the school and the school board had made progress during his two years on the board. He made clear that he is only leaving the school board because he is moving out of state for family reasons.

“It’s bittersweet, but I’m happy that I was a part of this small part of making Oak Park and River Forest High School one step closer to what it needs to be,” Henry said.

Henry’s departure from the school board comes just two weeks after three new board members were sworn in. Without Henry the board will become even less experienced than it is now.

The board members he served with for the past two years praised Henry’s contributions to the school board.

Board member Fred Arkin said he appreciated Henry’s “very astute words of wisdom. I hope the community appreciates that, I certainly do,” Arkin said.

Board member Mary Anne Mohanraj said she appreciated Henry’s passionate advocacy for students’ mental health. “I’m going to try and keep carrying that torch for you,” Mohanraj said.

School board president Tom Cofsky also praised Henry saying he will leave a very big set of shoes to fill. “You’ve been a tremendously valuable board member,” said Cofsky adding that he learned from Henry. 

Superintendent Greg Johnson also praised Henry. “You’ve been a good, critical, friend of the district,” Johnson said. “It is exactly the outline of a board member. I appreciate your focus and your attention to a variety of areas of this school, not just around this board. You served on other committees which should be recognized.”

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