Clear choices for D200 and D97 school boards

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Based on my experience as a former board member and president, Tom Cofsky, Jackie Moore, Jeff Weissglass and Craig Iseli are the clear choices in this election for the District 200 Board of Education. I have worked with three of these candidates on the D200 board, and am familiar with the District 97 work of the fourth. 

These exemplary candidates have impressive backgrounds and accomplishments — Cofsky, Moore and Weissglass at D200 and Iseli at D97. We are indeed fortunate to have such impressive candidates leading our schools. 

A D200 board member does far more than build facilities. The annual D200 budget is nearly three times the recently proposed facilities referendum amount, which would have been financed over 20 years. During their tenure, Cofsky, Moore and Weissglass have supported students. They improved the school climate by hiring an additional, greatly needed Pupil Support Services team. They supported equity by revising disciplinary policies, expanding the tutoring center, and supporting the Early Childhood Collaboration. 

They protected taxpayers by negotiating a faculty contract that brought teacher compensation more closely in line with other districts and tied future pay increases to the CPI-U, a measure used for property tax caps. At the same time, they supported teachers by expanding a 403(b) match to encourage savings for retirement beyond the shaky state pension system. 

Cofsky, Moore and Weissglass participated in a forward-thinking Finance Advisory Committee to address an oversized fund balance. In a district that historically took the full levy increase permitted by law each year, these candidates — along with leaders from the village of Oak Park and District 97 with whom the district had recently litigated — engaged the community to right-size the fund balance. In the end, they reduced the district's lawful levy by more than $30 million over four years and refrained from additional, lawful levy increases in order to reduce the fund balance by over $70 million dollars in a decade. 

Iseli, a longtime member of the D97 Finance Committee, joined the D97 school board when that board tragically lost member Peter Traczyk. Iseli quickly made his mark, helping D97 to achieve a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement. Iseli's background in engineering, University of Chicago MBA, and co-ownership of a financial services company reflect an impressive skill set that will make him particularly valuable as a D200 board member. 

Oak Park and River Forest High School is the cornerstone of our community and needs leaders who are intelligent, strategic and have a balanced view of the needs of students, parents, teachers and taxpayers. Tom Cofsky, Jackie Moore, Jeff Weissglass and Craig Iseli have a record of exceptional accomplishment for our schools and communities. Their efforts are needed to keep Oak Park and River Forest the exceptional communities that we all know and love.

John Phelan 

River Forest 

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Mark Fields from oak park  

Posted: March 29th, 2017 11:10 AM

Truth, integrity, commitment, and insight. These are the words that come to mind as I echo John Phelan's endorsement of Moore, Cofsky, Weisglass, and Iseli for the D200 Board. As John states, under the incumbent team's guidance the groundwork has been laid to keep pushing the district in a favorable direction. When making decisions at the policy level, complex trade-offs must be made to balance the interests of our students, fellow taxpayers, faculty and staff. Every decision requires an open ear to the community, deep knowledge of the attendant issues and collaboration between members of the board and district leadership. A team approach works. This team is a good balance of the required domain expertise, mutual respect, grace, and collaborative spirit needed to meet the multi-faceted challenges we face. This group, along with the new Superintendent (which they found and hired) can quickly move to execute long needed reforms and plans. Among the field of aspiring new candidates, Iseli distinguishes himself with a record of service to our community, a strong collaborative work ethic, experience in education policy and public fiscal management. He would be a good addition to the team. As a 23 year Oak Park resident, and father of four children who have been in and through our public school system, this is the first time I've seen a team as well positioned to vigorously tackle the issues that have vexed our community for years. In my view, Moore, Cofsky, Weisglass and Iseli are well suited for the road ahead and have earned my vote to continue moving D200 forward. - M. Fields

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