Equity in Action
Organizations are more effective, in myriad ways, when they reflect the population that they serve.
As President of the Oak Park Public Library Board the past two years, Matt became increasingly concerned about the long history of a nearly all-white composition of that board. Despite the village population’s ethnic diversity (nearly one-quarter of residents are African-American), there has never been an African-American man who has served on the board.
Matt actively sought out minority candidates, and that outreach resulted in three of the four African-American men who are currently running for library trustee seats.
The resolve to put action behind all the talk of equity is vital at the D200 level, particularly in light of the longstanding gaps between whites and minorities (most notably, African-American students) in academic performance, rates of disciplinary action, and other critical benchmarks.
D200 appears to be on a promising track in its recent initiative to seek disciplinary paths that are more measured, with a focus on restoring, rather than banishing, students. Matt would work to ensure that progress continues and to push for better results in the recruitment of minority teachers, especially African-Americans.
I am committed to serving as a bridge-builder between the high school and the caring, engaged citizens of our two outstanding communities.
From respectfully leaning in to input from citizens at board meetings to actively soliciting the spectrum of viewpoints on any given issue, Matt has already developed a reputation as an authentically engaged public servant. He will bring that spirit of genuine openness and appetite for innovative solutions to all of his decision-making on the D200 Board.
OPRF needs to be more diligent and creative in looking beyond money as the answer to so many problems. The high school has long failed to take enough advantage of a pent-up mentoring supply in the community: the wide-ranging wealth of talent and life skills possessed by Oak Parkers and River Foresters. If elected, Matt would advocate for an outreach initiative that enables students and faculty to capitalize on those individuals’ willingness and ability to bolster the educational experience.
Wise Fiscal Stewardship
District 200 has an abundance of cash reserves—a figure that soared above $130 million at one point, but was reduced to $97 million as of the end of the last fiscal year (June 2016). However, that figure is still more than double what is necessary to be fiscally responsible.
The D200 Board implicitly acknowledged that fact last year by stating it would deploy $20 million of the reserves toward a facilities plan whose centerpiece was the construction of a new pool.
However, the referendum seeking to borrow $25 million on top of that $20 million was narrowly defeated in November. While officials re-evaluate how to proceed on the pool and other facility needs, the school should continue to seek other responsible ways to draw down those excessive reserves.
True equity and excellence is impossible under the shadow of this bloated piggy bank. As a result, D200 will continue to face an uphill battle in regaining enough of the public’s trust to gain approval in future referendums, such as an operating referendum that is forecast in about five years.
Having had experience in approving four budgets on the Library Board, Matt understands that saying “yes” on any given spending decision means saying “no” on others. As a D200 board member, he would keep the interests of all students in the forefront of his decision-making when supporting—or opposing—any given allocation of his and his fellow taxpayers’ finite finances.
There is a world of difference between tolerating a speaker in silence and actively listening to someone who is challenging your preconceptions on a topic. Dissenting views should be valued as opportunities for progress, not threats to the status quo.
By modeling a transparent culture that welcomes spirited, respectful dialogue from all corners of Oak Park and River Forest, Matt will do his part to revive trust with the only special-interest group he will ever represent: the whole community.
Bolstered External Communication
While the school appears to be doing its job of communicating internally with the families of current students, there are vast opportunities for growth in its external communications.
Drawing on his background as a journalist, trainer and strategic communications leader, Matt would provide expert perspective on ways in which the high school can more effectively tell the numerous stories that flow from the learning experiences and activities inside and outside OPRF’s classrooms. The ramped-up communication would also provide an opportunity for students who are especially interested in related fields, such as marketing, journalism and advertising, to put their budding skills into practice.