At least 5 will vie for 3 seats at D97

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As of noon on Tuesday, five candidates had filed to run for the Board of Education for Oak Park Elementary School District 97, including three scientists, an ad man and incumbent board Vice President Carolyn Newberry Schwartz.

There are three seats up for election.

The five candidates all arrived at the earliest possible submission time, 8 a.m. on Tuesday, and will participate in a lottery on Feb. 2 to win the first position on the April 5 ballot. The lottery will determine the first five places on the ballot, with any additional candidates who file to run to appear on the ballot in the order in which they are received.

Newberry Schwartz announced her decision to run last week in a four-page press release that highlighted her accomplishments from the past four years and goals for the next four.

During her tenure, she introduced the idea for the Stepping Stones summer school program, proposed on-site childcare for kindergarten students, served on the Finance Task Force that recommended budgetary cutbacks to the board in February 2003, and helped form the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education, the statement reads.

Goals include working with the new superintendent and assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, promoting academic achievement, working on district finances, and providing accountability by "broadly" publicizing goals and updates on progress.

Raised in Oak Park, Newberry Schwartz and husband David have three children, 8, 12 and 16.

Kathryn Tortorice is a clinical specialist with the Department of Veterans Affairs Strategic Healthcare Group, and has served as an assistant clinical professor of pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and as a pharmacist in the Oak Park area.

Tortorice's candidacy builds off her involvement in the critical issues process at Brooks Middle School.

"I feel very strongly that parents need to be involved with working with teachers and administrators on issues that the district is dealing with," Tortorice said.

She identified achievement, finances and working with the new assistant superintendent of teaching and learning as goals, and said other schools might benefit from things learned during the Brooks improvement process.

"It certainly has opened dialogue between parents and teachers and administrators," she said.

Tortorice and husband Peter have lived in Oak Park for 13 years, and have a son, 14, at Oak Park and River Forest High School, a daughter, 12, at Brooks, and a son, 10, at Lincoln Elementary.

Julie Blankemeier, mother of four students at Holmes Elementary School, announced her candidacy in November. She said she'd like to join the Dist. 97 board to make "good" Oak Park schools "outstanding."

A physician who's now a full-time mom, said she'll bring a passion for education to the board, and would ask for more parental input if elected.

"A lot of parents don't feel like they're as well-listened-to as they could be," Blankemeier said.

Vic Guarino also announced his candidacy in November.

A mechanical engineer at Argonne National Laboratory, Guarino will make his second bid for the board because "I think I have something to contribute to the board, with my work experience and experience at Irving."

Guarino and wife Nancy have two daughters, one who is a second grader at Irving Elementary School.

He was one of six core members of the Learning Community Initiative, which has worked to reach out to Irving parents to improve parent participation at the school. The initiative aims at closing the minority student achievement gap, a goal Guarino would carry over to his tenure on the board.

"There's no silver bullet to address" the gap, Guarino said. He'll work on finding other "nitty gritty" ways of addressing the problem district-wide.

Peter Barber and his wife, Tracy Dell'Angela, have daughters in fifth and second grade at Beye Elementary School. Barber is an account director for an advertising agency in Chicago. The family has lived in Oak Park for five-and-a-half years.

Barber joined the Beye Parent-Teacher Organization this school year, serving as its co-vice president of special events. The experience has made him realize he could do more, and he saw a bid for school board as a good opportunity to get more involved.

Barber said sending his kids to public schools in Oak Park was a "no-brainer," and that he wants to "help make sure that opportunity and perception is fulfilled for others who choose to come to Oak Park in the future, as well as the current residents."

He said he would bring to the board a drive to communicate better with the community.

"People in the community have an interest and a right to get information on a timely basis and to feel their concerns are being acted upon," he said.

He also identified the minority and low-income achievement gaps and fiscal responsibility as major concerns.

"Ensuring that each tax dollar is used as effectively as possible is of great importance to me," Barber said.

?#34;Drew Carter

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