Phelan: Labor relations background will serve OPRF well


Opinion: Columns

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John Phelan

I thank Wednesday Journal for its characterization of me as "the best of the challengers." I have come to know Maggie Skiver and John Bokum during our campaign, and your words are a great compliment. I am disappointed that, with these good alternatives, this paper chose to endorse all three incumbents. I find it consoling, though, that I have been endorsed by the Oak Leaves and Forest Leaves and the OPRF Faculty Senate, the union representing District 200's teachers.

I am disappointed that Wednesday Journal would conclude that I lack strong vision for the school. The incumbent candidates had four years to carry out their visions, but at the end of their terms we find ourselves with the same achievement gap and the same Illinois Youth Survey statistics that plagued the school when they started. I have stated throughout this campaign specific ideas on how to handle issues like inadequate student achievement, narrowing the achievement gap and making our high school a safe, drug and alcohol free environment. I have articulated ideas that strike at the root of these problems, and I explain them in detail on my website, My vision for the school is enhanced by my experience as an OPRF student, parent and lifelong resident of this community, as well as my charitable efforts coaching and teaching children and working with recovering addicts and alcoholics. No other candidate has such a record.

I agree with Wednesday Journal's assertion that the true test of the next Board will be the negotiation of the faculty senate contract. However, I am not sure how one could intelligently conclude that the incumbents stand the best chance of getting a fair contract. I have practiced labor law for nearly 20 years. I received a bachelor's degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University, the premier institution in the labor relations field. I won the DePaul University College of Law negotiations competition all three years I attended. I regularly participate in complex collective bargaining for the largest employer of union labor in the United States. Even with this record, I have the endorsement of the faculty senate. Good union leadership prefers to negotiate with reasonable, thoughtful, intelligent and mature professionals, knowing that productive conversations between experienced negotiators advance the interests of the school, faculty, students and community. I partner with unions every day to accomplish important business goals. If nothing else, the faculty senate endorsement with my résumé demonstrates my ability to work with people to get things accomplished.

I appreciate the opportunity to submit a rebuttal to this paper's endorsements. I hope your readers take a good look at my website, talk to friends who know me, read materials available on this and other websites and in this and other publications, and then make an informed decision on April 5. If they do this, I believe the voters will give me the endorsement that this paper did not.

John Phelan is a River Forest resident running for a spot on the District 200 board.

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