District 200: For OPRF, Spivy, Harris, Martire


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By Editorial

This is the moment for Oak Park and River Forest High School. Too many decades of indecisiveness on complex issues of race and equity, a decade spent piling up cash unfairly snatched from taxpayers, a half-century of polishing but not investing in its physical plant, and a culture that handed over fat raises to staff without significant demands for change or regard to the impact on taxpayers have all brought us to an inflection point.

Each of these issues, all of these issues twined, have been set on the tee by the current school board and administration with a steady push by a community of activists both outside and inside 201 N. Scoville Ave.

It will be the school board chosen by voters on April 2 that determines if District 200 takes bold, confident action on these multiple and related fronts or somehow squanders this moment of transformation.

On election day, voters will have six candidates for the three open seats on the school board. Four of those candidates would be well positioned to lead in this moment. Two in our opinion have a less holistic understanding of the issues at the school. They are Vic Guarino and Amanda Massie.

Our strong endorsements go to incumbent Sara Dixon Spivy and newcomers Gina Harris and Ralph Martire. Narrowly left off our list is incumbent Fred Arkin.

Spivy has played a critical role on the current board as it has undertaken the complicated path of leading on racial equity, finally putting the albatross of the $100 million cash reserve to some good use, undertaking a major capital plan that focuses solely on classrooms and shared student spaces, and was patient and firm in negotiating a teachers contract that bends toward equity and is not a slap in the face to taxpayers.

Ralph Martire is a newcomer only to OPRF. He has been an extraordinarily effective school board member and president of the River Forest District 90 elementary school board. Martire was there as that district, to our astonished delight, acknowledged that it was a high-performing academic district with a serious racial opportunity gap. Coupled with Supt. Ed Condon, that board has been bold and decisive in taking on equity. He brings that experience, three years on the high school's Culture, Climate and Behavior Committee, as well as his widely respected professional experience as the executive director of the bi-partisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. Martire will be a stellar addition to this board.

Gina Harris is a longtime educator with a focus on equity, restorative justice and teacher training. An OPRF alum and now the parent of OPRF students, Harris brings frontline experience in how equity challenges play out in the everyday lives of our children. She brings uplifting ideas on unity and pragmatic ideas on how to control spending. 

Not endorsing Fred Arkin is a hard choice. This is more like leaving a talented player off the playoff roster than in any way diminishing his talent or passion for the work of the high school. Like Spivy, Arkin gets full credit for bringing the high school to this decisive point. In our opinion though, Harris adds a voice that needs to be heard on this school board right now.

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Reader Comments

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Marc Martinez from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2019 11:50 AM

I agree with Monica Sheehan. The transformation that we need now is a focus on fiscal responsibility and the taxpayers. Enough with the continuous search for new ways to spend money, palace building, excess administration, and fat teacher contracts.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: March 21st, 2019 9:56 AM

Amanda Massie and Vic Guarino merit our votes for the D200 School Board. They possess the requisite Board skills and experience as well as the vision for what OPRF High School could and should be for every student. Voters can trust that Massie and Guarino will act in the best interests of all students AND taxpayers. The Wednesday Journal D200 endorsements lack credibility. The newspaper endorses an incumbent who twice tried to spend an average of $36 million on a pet project for a special interest group, the first time bypassing voters and the second time misrepresenting the referendum to voters. As a reminder, the Wednesday Journal also endorsed both of those plans. The Board and administration's efforts to push through the fiscally irresponsible pet project lacked integrity, wasted nearly a million of our educational dollars and served as a years-long distraction, diverting time, focus and financial resources from addressing faltering academic outcomes and racial equity issues at OPRF. The incumbent, the Board and the administration sat on a draft Racial Equity Policy put forth by community members more than 2 1/2 years ago. It took a docu-series and community outrage to force action. The other candidates endorsed by the Wednesday Journal pose a conflict of interest concern as both candidates have direct financial and political ties to the union that represents D200's teachers. Union interests belong on only one side of the D200 negotiating table.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 9:21 PM

Amanda, you have my vote, too. Maybe you would have been endorsed by the Wednesday Journal if you bought more advertising. I will vote for you and only you, amplyfing my vote for you.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 8:18 PM

Amanda, many things separate you from the crowd in my view. But the one thing that stood out - at the forums I attended - is that you spoke in simple, understandable but compelling, english. No BS buzz words or jargon or long winded ludicrous bloviating academic sounding confusing nonsense. That is really refreshing. You got my vote too.

Leslie Sutphen  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 7:46 PM

Amanda Massie - you have been there tirelessly for all Board meetings over the past few years asking the Board to consider fiscal responsibility, transparency, and equity. I support you 100%

Heather Douglas  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 4:32 PM

Amanda Poppenk Massie. Thank you for running. I support you 100%. You look at a problems from all angles, and that's important, because OPRF's issues are complex. I'm tired of candidates who just give lip service to solving the achievement gap by promoting ineffective policies, that do nothing but make us progressives "feel good". You, on the other hand, will actually make a difference. As the mother of black children, and the wife of a black educator, you've lived this, you're invested in this. You're OPRF's best chance at reducing the achievement gap. I support you 100%

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 3:07 PM

I can't say I was shocked that I wasn't endorsed. I had to keep on them to even interview me. That said it all. It seems that the "establishment" in Oak Park doesn't want a person whose honest, straight forward (transparent) and running for the right reasons: educational equity for ALL students, transparency and fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers. I have no ulterior motive but to improve the education while asking "how are we going to pay for it". Obviously, not popular except with our tax paying community. Since my sons are both black and have gone thru two different public schools I'm more than qualified to talk "equity in education" because I've experienced it first hand. I will be sending in a rebuttal next week so stay tuned.

Edwin Haag  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 2:03 PM

Why on earth would they endorse 2 candidates who are literally tied to the hip with labor unions and the one who didn't even question the amount of money it would take for the pool or the massive reconstruction project. If you think Ms. Harris's voice should be heard, then make sure she simply attends all the meetings as a spectator.

Pete Prokopowicz from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 11:15 AM

A vote for Martire is a vote for higher spending. The surplus is very tempting to a spender, but after it's gone, the spending level remains.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 11:05 AM

Nice to know who the guy living in Berwyn endorses.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 9:38 AM

For decades the WJ has been a gem for OP and RF....with one exception. They have supported 99% of all tax referendums and the candidates who espoused them (aka, "the establishment"). This spending has brought our property taxes to a critical level. Two incumbents (Spivey and Arkin) are wonderful people but they also fully supported the tearing down of the parking garage and the building of the huge high school pool (the seating for 600 had NOTHING to do with PE, but solely for the pool parents - who lobbied them for this). It was this event which awakened Amanda Massie and it was Vic Guarino, presently the President of the OP Park District, who pleaded with the OPRF board to work with them on a community pool.....to no avail. We can no longer accept the status quo. People are fleeing OP & RF because of it.

George Smith  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 8:24 AM

I will never vote for anyone involved in trying to ram that pool through. Martire is way too tax and spend. Its time to return sanity to D200. Massie and Guarino.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2019 9:28 PM

Ralph Martire and Gia Davis will represent the unions, not the village or the taxpayers. I'm voting for Amanda Massie and Victor Guarino, who understand that educating students are more important to OPRF, than grandiose pools and union desires.

Dori Bernstein  

Posted: March 19th, 2019 8:51 PM

Interesting that you mention D200's past hoarding of cash as a negative and then recommend Martire who bragged at one of the forums how he did the same thing at D90. I hope he won't start the cash hoarding all over again at D200 if he gets elected.

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