Independent Millard will top OPRF ballot

? Teaching physician Millard wants more creative opportunities for students, like the India trip she helped organize.

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A lottery last week for the first five positions on the April ballot for District 200 Board of Education ended with an independent candidate drawing the top spot.

Dr. Dietra D. Millard?#34;known to patients, students and young doctors at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University as Dr. Millard, but as Dee "to everybody else"?#34;will appear first on the ballot.

Incumbents John Rigas, Paul Wolfman and Valerie J. Fisher will appear next on the ballot, followed by fellow Community Caucus-slated candidate Jacques A. Conway.

The lottery was prompted when the first five candidates filed simultaneously at the first available time, 8 a.m. on Jan. 18.

Independent Ronald Lawless, who filed later, will be the last candidate to appear on the ballot.

Millard fell in love with India
Dee Millard grew up in rural Illinois, outside of Champaign in a farmhouse near the Sangamon River, and became a doctor, like many do, because she got sick.

She attended elementary school in Mansfield before the family moved to Ohio, where she attended high school and college. After graduating with an education degree, she looked for a service trip and combined the two by teaching preschool in India.

Millard got sick?#34;probably from eating unclean food or drinking contaminated water, she said?#34;and became fascinated with medicine during her recovery at a rural hospital. She returned to the States to study medicine, but continued to make trips to India.

She met Mother Teresa on that first trip and would later collaborate directly with her on a orphanage for HIV-positive women and children.

To trump up India to her son, Millard looked to start a service trip there for him and fellow students at Oak Park and River Forest High School. She got hooked up with history teacher Steve Goldberg, who had led student trips to England, and the school sent its first batch of students to India in 2000.

Now a biennial event, Millard scheduled the 2005 trip before she knew she would run for the board. So, she'll be out of the country on election day and will have to file an absentee ballot.

'Let's get everybody talking more'
Goldberg encouraged her to run for the board, saying it needed more progressive members after the recent teachers contract was signed, Millard said.

She participated in the Caucus process, but was not selected and was not told why the committee decided against putting her on the slate, she said.

But she decided to run anyway?#34;against the advice of some who said independent candidates don't often win?#34;if for no other reason than to spark discussion.

"We'll just have to see how it works," she said. "Let's get everybody talking more. Do they want the status quo?"

Millard said she would like to see "more creative opportunities for kids" at the high school, including community-based externships, citizen teaching associates and stronger faculty development opportunities to spur new programs.

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