D200 School Board Election Endorsements

On March 19, The Trapeze and ASPIRA hosted a forum with the six candidates running for four spots on the D200 School Board. The two-hour event consisted of four sections of questions: Academics, Pandemic, Budgeting, and Racial Equity. Questions were written by members of the respective clubs and other OPRF students.

The School Board is made up of  seven people. Three of the seven board members are not up for reelection and will stay on the board. The candidates running include Tom Cofsky (incumbent), David Schrodt, Fred Arkin (board member from 2015-2019), Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kebreab Henry, and Elias Ortega.

 

Based on our independent research as well as responses from the candidates at the forum, The Trapeze Editorial Board is endorsing the following candidates:

 

Fred Arkin by Libby Eggert, Editor-in-Chief

 

Fred Arkin is an OPRF graduate, a longtime resident of both towns, and currently an insurance broker. He was a member of the school board from 201-201? He founded and now coaches the Little Huskies Club, has coached multiple youth sports teams in Oak Park, and worked on an abundance of committee boards (see here: link)

Arkin has a wonderful balance of professional experience as well as a personal, deep-rooted understanding of Oak Park and River Forest. He grew up in our community, has friends, family, and colleagues in our community. He understands the nuances of the issues plaguing our school district and has thoughtful ideas for solutions to these complicated problems.

During his previous term on the school board, Arkin proved a commitment to improving equity in our community. His board created a committee for D200, D97, and D90 to collaborate on racial equity. He also supported expansions to our PSS teams, Launch and Leadership programs, and Motivational Mentorship. He will continue to hear student concerns and opinions during his tenure. You can find out more about his specific policies in the three links below.

The most favorable traits in Arkin, though is harder to quantify, are perhaps the most pertinent in a candidate for a committee-style position. In every interview, for every question we posed, Arkin displayed a tone and demeanor that demonstrated his ability to listen and respond critically to us and his fellow candidates. This is valuable for a board member because we need someone who will listen and collaborate with his constituents, colleagues, and superiors. 

I am excited to see Arkin be reelected to the school board. I am grateful for the impact he has already had in our community and his continued engagement with students over the last 40 years. 

 

Campaign Website: http://www.fred4d200.com/index.html

Wednesday Journal Profile: https://www.oakpark.com/2019/03/14/fred-arkin/

OPRF Forum Video: https://drive.google.com/file/d/179B-cnECGavLaByqmV_mgOPTteSFJ28X/view?usp=sharing

 

Mary Anne Mohanraj by Holden Green, Photo and Graphic Editor

 

Mary Anne Mohanraj is an Oak Park resident. She is an award-winning author and has been an english professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago since 2008.

Mohanraj has served on the Oak Park Library board since 2017, as well as boards of other Chicago-based and international organizations.

Mohanraj displayed a real empathy for students and the problems that students face. It is clear that, in her experiences as a professor, she learned to treat students not as test scores or small parts of the bigger picture, but rather as individuals with individual needs. Mohanraj’s dedication to helping students succeed academically, as well as socially and emotionally, would help inform policies that ensure equity for everyone, regardless of any characteristic that would otherwise serve as an obstacle. 

Beyond her professional experience, Mohanraj explained at the forum hosted by Trapeze and ASPIRA, “I’m bisexual. I’m a queer woman of color, and I think having people like me on the board, at a school that has students like me, makes a difference.” Indeed, her lived experiences provide a unique perspective and give her invaluable empathy and knowledge of problems affecting OPRF students; especially those who may otherwise face a tougher challenge advocating for themselves.

The school board is tasked with establishing policy goals that will help the school and the students succeed long-term. But, day to day, they have to answer to the current student body. Mohanraj would not only think pragmatically and empathetically about long-term goals, she would be considerate and attentive to the current needs of students and the school community.

In closing, Mohanraj represents the best characteristics someone could possess to serve on the school board. Her addition to the board would undoubtedly better the students of today, as well as the students for years to come.

 

Kebreab Henry by Calvin Roe, News and Opinion Editor

 

Kebread Henry is an Oak Park resident and parent. He has served on the OPRF Culture, Climate, and Behavior Committee and is a business owner of a consulting firm.

Henry’s experience as a business owner makes him fit for a board position that requires fiscal responsibility. Specifically, Henry sees the ongoing Imagine renovation plan as an area of focus for assuring residents that Oak Park and River Forest can be affordable for low-income families.

Furthermore, Henry’s focus and open-mindedness on issues of race at OPRF is vital to a community that values diversity. As he defines it, equity is “removing barriers to success and providing avenues for all students to be the best version of themselves.” Henry hopes to foster more creative ways for community discussions on the topic of race to ensure all voices are heard.

Lastly, Henry made note that he values civility and respect in discussions of topics that could raise strong emotions. His regular maturity and role-modeling make him a candidate worth voting for. 

 

Tom Cofsky by Josh Hedrich, Sports Editor

 

Tom Cofsky has been a board member for 8 years now, he is the parent of five former OPRF students, and he has lived in Oak Park for over 30 years.

Cofsky has experience on the board, and he is knowledgeable when it comes to budget management, as he has served as the Finance Committee chair. He has advocated for a restructuring of the compensation policy that would pay faculty based on their performance.

During his time on the board, Cofsky has supported policies that have made the school more equitable. Most notably, helped implement the 1:1 technology plan, which served to give all students access to proper technology. Cofsky believes that there have been steps taken to create equity, but he wants to ensure that things continue to move forward in the right direction.

Cofsky believes that student voices are key when it comes to the board’s decision-making process. Cofsky wants to leave time in the board meeting agendas for students to voice their opinions. Cofsky also believes it is important for board members to help students understand the role of the board.

When it comes to detracking, Cofsky views the current policy as a way of standardizing curriculums, meaning that all students will get the material they need for their success. Cofsky understands that faculty will need support when the detracking is implemented and he wants to help provide them with the necessary resources.

Tom Cofsky has been on the board for eight years and has shown he can effectively manage taxpayer money while making OPRF a more equitable space. This is why we believe Cofsky should be re-elected to the D200 school board.

 

The other members of the editorial board recused themselves from this endorsement process due to personal involvement with associated candidates. These four endorsements only reflect the views of the editors who wrote them. 

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