D97 board president pitches progress, continuity

Holly Spurlock, the lone incumbent, wants to keep equity momentum going

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Among the five people running for the four open seats on the Oak Park Elementary Schools District 97 Board of Education, only one is an incumbent. Holly Spurlock, who is the board president, said that she's running for re-election in April to build on the progress that has happened at the district during her first term. 

"I think it's important that we have some continuity," she said during a recent interview. "We've done so much growing in four years that I want to be part of finishing this and getting to the next level." 

Spurlock, who was first elected to the board in 2015, sits on the board's policy committee, which is working on drafting new equity and sexual harassment policies — measures, she said, that will help reinforce equity work that's already happening. 

"This administration, led by [Superintendent Carol] Kelley, has been working on equity from the time that they started putting together curriculum changes," Spurlock said. "The work is underway. The policy puts meat on the vision and says that we're acknowledging that we have made many efforts toward equity and haven't succeeded. And the way to succeed is to look at everything we're doing through an equity lens." 

Spurlock touted her role in selecting Kelley to be superintendent, adding that the hire "was the first substantial decision I was part of." 

Once hired, Kelley helped to develop the district's vision, which is to "create a positive learning environment for all students that is equitable, inclusive and focused on the whole child." 

In a candidate statement she drafted, Spurlock lists roughly a dozen practices and programs that the district has implemented since 2015. They include implementing co-teaching pilot programs that allow students with learning disabilities to "learn side-by-side with their peers for the majority, if not all, of their day;" reviewing and updating curricula to accommodate for students' individualized learning styles; and making the recruitment, hiring and retention of more minority and male teachers a priority.

"We've done so much to get this momentum going on equity," Spurlock said. "I think we should continue the momentum." 

That pitch for continuity could resonate with voters, considering that, if Spurlock loses her bid for re-election, more than half of the school board would be made up of newcomers. 

In addition, Bob Spatz, who announced last year that he won't be seeking another term, takes his deep institutional knowledge of the district with him. 

"I can't express how we'll miss him," said Spurlock. "His knowledge is irreplaceable, but under Superintendent Kelley, we've changed a lot and the institutional knowledge that I have will be valuable in the same way that Bob's is. But, no, he's not replaceable and I don't see any of us being hesitant at all to him if we need consultation."

Spurlock and her husband, Brandon, have two children who attend Whittier School. Spurlock graduated from the University of Texas before obtaining a law degree from Northwestern and an MBA from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. She's currently director of the Strategic Claims Unit for an insurance company. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com    

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Marty Bernstein  

Posted: February 6th, 2019 7:32 PM

"District 97 has made efforts to address the inequities in our District and thus far these efforts have been largely unsuccessful" . From D97 draft equity policy, "D97's proposed equity policy won't come free" Wednesday Journal February 5, 2019. D97 is considering adding 19 new FTEs ( full time equivalent positions) as critical resources to achieve equity goals in the draft policy. The obvious question is why isn't D97 proposing using existing staff that are doing things that are "largely unsuccessful" to perform the things that D97 thinks is necessary to achieve success? After 2017's referenda were approved, resulting in a an approximate 29% increase in operating revenue D97 continues to ignore the overwhelming tax burden placed on the taxpayers in Oak Park. It is time for D97 board members and administration leaders to live within a budget that doesn't continue to harm the taxpayers and not accomplish equity.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2019 12:12 AM

Let's try some new comers. It can't be worse.

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