What I’ll do
The three main issues facing District 200 are equity/achievement, finances, and the facilities.
Equity and Achievement
OPRFHS has been talking about equity and the achievement gap for far too long – the time for action is now.
Racial equity is achieved when racial identity is not a predictor of academic performance. Equity is needed in order to attack the achievement gap. There is not a single silver bullet that will address the achievement gap and achieve equity at OPRFHS, rather, it requires a change in culture by the entire school community. I will:
Introduce accountability by having performance measures introduced into senior staff contracts. These measures include targets for reducing the SAT gap between white students and students of color and increases in the percentage of students a grade level.
Implement curriculum changes; reintroduce the Scholar Program that supports students taking an Honors/AP course for the first time.
Reintroduce furniture into the student center and allow students to use it as a safe place after school.
Reimagine the purpose of summer school as a means to prepare students making the transition to high school and as a boost to prepare students when they take honors/AP courses during their time at OPRF.
Develop close links with the middle schools.
Launch an aggressive campaign to hire teachers of color and then provide them the support they need to retain them over the long term.
Finances and Facilities
OPRFHS is also facing key decisions on finances and facilities.
The tax burden on residents has become onerous and tax increases, due to referendums or taking on debt, should not be considered.
As a member of the IMAGINE team I was part of the evaluation of our existing facility. The current board failed to provide leadership during the IMAGINE process and did not define a scope or realistic budget with a goal of creating a plan that meets the educational needs of the school while being fiscally responsible.
No capital expenditures should be done until a five year financial plan is developed that defines which funds are available for capital investment without increasing the tax burden. The board needs to strike a balance between capital spending, reducing the fund balance, and pushing an operating referendum as far into the future as possible.
As part of a long term financial plan I support the recent action by the Board to pursue the aspects of IMAGINE that are directly tied to academic achievement and equity. All decisions should be prioritized by asking what the impact is on academic achievement. I support D200 Board’s approval of $32 million for addressing the academic and ADA issues identified by IMAGINE.
The pool is the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed because repairs are needed. Yet funds are limited. I will propose remedying the situation by replacing the pools within the existing footprint for swim classes and by partnering with the Park District of Oak Park for a competition pool such as one covered by Ridgeland Common.
Tough choices have to be made in the future that balance providing a high-quality education experience to all of our students while operating within budget constraints.