Analysis: School board elections matter

Consumers of the paper might recall reading about the pool renovations, the tumultuous conversations about how to fund a new athletic wing, tighter ID regulations, the establishment of an intergovernmental agreement between the school and local police, and alterations to the freshman curriculum.

All of these changes resulted from a school board decision.

Three of the board’s seven seats will be vacant on April 4, with five candidates vying for a place.

How the replacement board members vote, what committees they serve and the ideas they propose can all potentially cause sweeping changes to how the school functions in the future. Whether it relates to taxes, curriculum alterations or how the school treats its students, every community member, teacher, staff member and student has a reason to care about the election.

Initially three board members were planning to step down: Gina Harris, Ralph Martire and Sara Dixon Spivy. But just eight minutes before the petition submission deadline, Spivy submitted her petition to run again, formalizing her prospective reelection- according to records from the Cook County Clerk.

Spivy was initially elected to the board in 2015, and during her two terms on the board she was instrumental in forming the Culture, Climate and Behavior Committee, which works to address race inequities in discipline–think restorative justice.

According to the Wednesday journal, she has also historically supported Imagine OPRF, the school’s long-term plan to renovate its facilities.

The other candidates are Graham Brisben, Jonathan Livingston, Brian Souders and Tim Brandhorst.

Souders has been critical of plans to raise taxes for building renovations and has published notable opinion pieces about it in the Wednesday Journal. Souders is also critical of District 200’s history and intensity of tax levies.

Brandhorst, the only River Forest resident in the group, juxtaposes Souders with his cheerleading in favor of sweeping Imagine OPRF renovations.

He published several pieces in the Wednesday Journal as well, being especially supportive of the pool renovations that concluded this year.

Brisben served on the board for District 97, which governs Oak Park’s elementary and middle schools, from 2013 to 2017. He ran for village board in 2019 but lost with 919 votes, or 3.6 percent of the vote, according to the Wednesday Journal.

Livingston is a resident of South Oak Park.

For an unpaid volunteer position, bureaucracy demands a lot of candidates, let alone what’s asked of them once elected. For one, prospective candidates must prove they aren’t felons, or if they were at one point that their felon status had been wiped. No ex-felons are running this term.

Candidates also have to go door to door–or Facebook friend to Facebook friend–to obtain 50 signatures on a nominating petition, which they then submit to the Cook County Clerk’s Office to make their candidacy official.

Although most high school students aren’t old enough to vote in the election, they should follow it closely. It’s good to learn about the democratic process–especially when it can impact you.