Oak Park library trustee to run for D200 board

Matt Baron, the library board's president, will not seek reelection to that body

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter


There will be four seats open on the Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 school board during the April 4, 2017 election and Oak Park Public Library Trustee Board President Matt Baron, 48, said he plans on filling one of them. 

Baron, who has served on the library board for one term, said he planned on running for reelection in 2017. He's since changed his mind.

"Over the past year I have actively encouraged individuals — particularly, in light of the historic lack of ethnic diversity on the board, African-Americans — to consider pursuing library trustee seats," Baron said. 

"Earlier this month, it became clear that my outreach had led to at least four well-qualified individuals, including three African-Americans, planning to run for library trustee," he added. "At that point, confident in the library board's positive direction, I began exploring other opportunities to serve in public office." 

Baron, a married father of two children whose has lived in Oak Park since 1994, said his 13-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, will be entering OPRF next year and that the "timing is right to shift my service from the Oak Park Public Library Board of Trustees to the D200 Board." 

The Boston native, who owns and operates a PR company, spent nearly 20 years as a print journalist, freelancing for publications such as the Chicago Tribune and Time magazine. He said he'll leverage his communications skills to offer "an inclusive, collaborative and creative approach to the many issues facing the high school."

"For nearly 20 years, on subjects spanning math, journalism, interpersonal communication, public relations, leadership and relationship-building, I have been a frequent guest speaker in classrooms ranging from grade schools to graduate-level college classes," Baron said. "I also bring a lifelong passion for education and its potential to impact individuals, communities and the world in powerful ways." 

Along with his seat on the library board, Baron is also an active member of Harvest Bible Chapel Chicago West in Austin, a member of the Oak Park and River Forest Chamber of Commerce and host of two local cable channel talk shows. 

The seats of D200 board president Jeff Weissglass, in addition to board members Jackie Moore, Steve Gevinson and Tom Cofsky are all up for grabs in April. 

So far, Baron is the first candidate to publicly announce plans to begin the process of filing to run for the high school board. Candidates have until December 19 to file petitions for next year's consolidated election.

The recent swimming pool referendum, narrowly defeated by voters, will likely be at the center of the high school race. The ballot measure asked voters to approve a $44.5 million, five-year facilities plan that would be paid with up to $25 million in referendum bonds. The remaining $20 million was to have come out of the district's fund balance.

The plan, approved unanimously by the school board in August, called for demolishing the village-owned, 300-space garage and constructing an estimated $21.4 million, 25-yard by 40-meter swimming pool, in addition to a roughly 240-space new parking garage, on the site of the old one. The high school would also have expanded performing arts and learning spaces, and renovate classroom space, on campus.

Baron, who said that he voted no on the referendum, noted that he believed the board's approved plan was "far too expensive in light of all of the school's need. I was opposed to the demolition of the parking garage, among other concerns." 

He also expressed optimism that, despite the "community fatigue" over the pool issue, "an even better solution" would be found over time. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

Reader Comments

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Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 28th, 2016 12:37 AM

If we are assigning blame to this issue Chris, there are some of us who had no problem with the BOE's conduct and place blame square on the heads of the referendum people.

Chris Costello  

Posted: November 27th, 2016 9:07 PM

The BOE has no one to blame but themselves for the pool referendum failing. Had they acted more ethically from the start or more modestly in their request, we may not have needed a referendum in the first place. They have the power to make their Big Pool right now. They have the power to compromise toward a better solution for all. If the BOE instead chooses to sit in the corner and sulk it is no fault but their own.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 27th, 2016 3:43 PM

Bruce I think the "No" people should be responsible for that. Go get all those photo ops you felt cheated out of. I think some of the words used were" "rat", crumbling", "leaking", "disgusting," "gross water." But woot woot - we'll have a new one when a new one gets signed off at some point in our lifetime.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 27th, 2016 2:37 PM

If in fact rats are "running around" as you say Ada, then the pools and locker rooms should be closed down immediately as this is clearly a public health issue. Your narrative certainly contradicts the official narrative of the Superintendent, who denies such adverse public health allegations related to the pools and locker rooms.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 27th, 2016 1:19 PM

saw this one coming a mile away after the pool battle. Sure he'll do a great job. However - will say - was with 4-pro pool people last night...regular people who have no issue with their taxes going up less than a $100 a year who are tired of rats running through locker rooms and crumbling pools - they are irritated. So get your A game on. Sure it won't be a problem for a seasoned PR professional.

Barbara Purington  

Posted: November 23rd, 2016 6:29 PM

I've known the family since OP park district soccer days, and now the library board (FOPPL x 20 yrs.). While his leaving will be a loss to the library board, he will be a welcomed addition to District 200 board. He has my vote too.

Pat Koko  

Posted: November 23rd, 2016 5:07 PM

Ditto all of the other posts. Matt will bring his wisdon and caring sensitivity to the District 200 Board. He has my vote.

James P. Farrell  

Posted: November 23rd, 2016 10:00 AM

He's got my vote. The OPRF Public Library has been a great asset to the community.

Kevin Wood from Oak Park  

Posted: November 23rd, 2016 9:40 AM

This is Abraham Lincoln, saying that I personally know Matt (you didn't know he was that old, did you?), and though he will be missed on the library board, I think that he would make a great addition to the D200 board. He will help insure that it is a board which is "of the people, by the people, and for the people", and he will serve "with malice toward none [and] with charity for all."

Jack Davidson  

Posted: November 23rd, 2016 12:01 AM

I wish Matt Baron the best of luck. He is sensible, genuine, and rational while being kind and patient, all of which are qualities that would vastly improve outcomes from the D200 board.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 6:17 PM

Matt's announcement is great news! He would be an asset on the District 200 Board of Education.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 6:15 PM

Matt's announcement is great news! He would be an asset on the District 200 Board of Education.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: November 22nd, 2016 3:40 PM

Matt Baron would be an excellent D200 board member.

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