Building on a strong foundation at OPRF

Opinion: Columns

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By Jeff Weissglass

Candidate One View

I have been honored to serve on the board of OPRF High School District 200 for the last four years. During this time, an entirely new Board was elected. As president, I have helped the board balance the benefits of fresh ideas and energy with the absence of experienced board members, culminating in the hiring of Dr. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams as our new superintendent. Together, we are now a strong, collaborative leadership team, and I am running for a second term to build on that foundation.

The board's first accomplishment during my term was to adopt an ambitious strategic plan. I am committed to fully implementing the plan, which strives for equity and excellence with high aspirations for all students, all educators, and all of us who support them.

Guided by that plan, we reduced caseloads for counselors, hired permanent social workers, invigorated the motivational mentoring program, piloted peer mentoring and social-emotional coach efforts, and eliminated fees for low-income families. We are also identifying and providing supports to move more qualifying African American and Latino students into honors and AP classes, and we are enhancing our restorative justice work.

In addition, we took on a 15-year stalemate around our outdated, crumbling pools and though not yet resolved, we narrowed the options considerably and set the stage for reaching a broad community consensus. 

We also confronted the longstanding controversy about the size of the district's reserves, cut taxes by over $30 million, limited future tax increases by an additional $42 million, and became debt-free.

I chaired the Finance Advisory Committee that achieved those financial results. I also led the efforts to address the pool and facilities issues, as well as the national superintendent search.

While we have made great progress, we still have much to do. Priorities include: 

1) take on persistent racial disparities as reflected in course placement, discipline, grades, test scores, and our students' sense of belonging and engagement; 

2) improve facilities to accommodate growing enrollment and expanded performing arts, provide flexible, technology-rich learning environments, and replace the pools; and 

3) address issues of sexual harassment and misconduct to ensure that all students and adults feel safe and respected.

While pursuing these priorities, it is imperative that we manage costs prudently and continue to seek a balance between the level of services that make our community a great place to live and our commitment to diversity and inclusion. In addition, all the jurisdictions need to seek this balance, and I will continue to use my extensive relationships with other boards to advance inter-governmental cooperation.

My passion is to ensure that every student is engaged, supported, challenged, and inspired, work that I also pursue through a national initiative supporting new approaches to learner-centered education. I am eager to continue combining what I am learning with my commitment to our students and community during a second term on the OPRF-D200 board. 

Please visit www.WeissglassforD200.org to learn more, and consider voting for me during early voting or on April 4.

Reader Comments

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Monica Sheehan  

Posted: March 21st, 2017 8:41 AM

Mr. Weissglass has never addressed why the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) only "returned" $28M of the $100M or so of the overtaxed money to taxpayers. The school board's October 15, 2015 news release stated that "the district has cut property taxes by a total of $28 million over the past three years." It's important to stick to the facts: it was $28M, not over $30M and Weissglass doesn't get to take credit for any limitation on future tax increases or that the school became debt-free. The credit goes to all of us. Remember, the school board is still sitting on a mountain of our over-taxed dollars. In the fall of 2014, I was present at a school board meeting and heard Weissglass actually lie to a woman who, in her public comment, asked why can't we just renovate the existing pools. Weissglass said because each pool would have to lose a lane. At the time I didn't know it was a lie, it wasn't until February 2016 that I unearthed the Stantec Report on the school's website. The March 2013 definitive, engineering report on the pools actually recommended that the school solve its pool problem by building one 8-lane, 25-yard standard size, high school competition pool in the East Pool/South Gym. Stantec also recommended that the school board bring this recommendation to the public at large. That never happened. Instead, Weissglass and the rest of the school board buried Stantec's pragmatic pool solution and lied to the community. The lie was repeated in print in the same October 15, 2015 news release. It was issued to defend the school board's decision to bypass voters, raise taxes without our consent, and spend $37.5M on an Olympic-size pool to appease a special interest group and demolish the 12-year old garage leaving no parking at the school. It was and remains an outrageous plan and equally outrageous action by the school board. Restore trust, accountability and fiscal responsibility on the D200 School Board and vote for Matt Baron, Jack Davidson and Doug Springer.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: March 20th, 2017 1:42 PM

The present Board has failed SpEd / students with special needs.AUDIT the huge cost of paying ATTORNEYS to oppress parents advocating for their children who require IEPs and 504s. Add that cost to the big money spent on CONSULTANTS and big salaries and benefits .for Administrators and Staff.. The POOL and tearing down the parking garage still being paid for fiasco is beyond insulting. WHY was Dr. Isoye given another contract when he did a terrible job? --and than he breaks said contract and leaves OPRF in a shambles.How was Phil Prale ever allowed to earn the absurd salary and benefits he has? what the heck does Karen Sullivan do that isn't already done--another 6 figure salary that makes no sense.Enough! $$$

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: March 19th, 2017 10:28 AM

At the recent SEOPCO D200 Candidate Forum, Jack Davidson pointed out that the school board's strategic plan is skeletal, not even a full plan. Jeff Weissglass actually agreed and said that it is just a "framework". So, it is very odd that Weissglass writes that "the board's first accomplishment during my term was to adopt an ambitious strategic plan." In fact, Weissglass' "ambitious" strategic plan is only four pages long and is nothing more than a nice list of "want to do's" and goals, but there is no path on how to achieve them nor any measurement devices imbedded in it to tell us what is a success and what is not. It was never fully adopted by all staff nor implemented so that employees within the school have a playbook for success. It holds no one accountable. Davidson is correct. This is not a strategic plan. For the last four years, Weissglass and the rest of the school board have managed annual revenues of over $70M and $100M in the bank without an implemented, integrated and measurable strategic plan. This is irresponsible, and it underscores the lack of leadership on the school board. Vote for responsible, accountable and trustworthy leadership for the D200 school board. Vote for Matt Baron, Jack Davidson and Doug Springer!

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2017 10:10 PM

"I also led the efforts to address the pool" is taking credit for a disaster of not listening to the people. Custer probably took credit for his own massacre right up to the end as well.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 18th, 2017 3:20 PM

You're right Leslie. Mr. Weissglass certainly put an Orwellian spin on the last years events. I hope we can elect new people to the board who really are responsive to the community (and not just a select few) and stop treating the tax payer as an open bank vault.

Leslie Sutphen  

Posted: March 18th, 2017 1:51 PM

"In addition, we took on a 15-year stalemate around our outdated, crumbling pools and though not yet resolved, we narrowed the options considerably and set the stage for reaching a broad community consensus." What an interesting way to describe spending thousands on surveys and community meetings and ignoring the opinions, creating one of the most divisive referendum campaigns I have ever experienced in Oak Park, and then continuing to believe that the Board has accurately narrowed the options for a new swimming pool facility to one that is oversized and unnecessarily expensive. It is time to vote for change in D200 and elect people who are willing to listen to the community and stop stressing the tax payer.

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