District 200 school board (4 open seats)

Matt Baron | Tom Cofsky | Jack Davidson | Craig Iseli | Jackie Moore | Douglas Springer | Jeff Weissglass

tom cofsky



What motivates you to seek this office? Have you participated in public service in the past? If so, how? If not, why now? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the running of the school district?

I am committed to driving forward the district’s strategic plan, especially with the recent hire of a new superintendent. I realize there is a tremendous amount of learning that goes into being a school board member and feel that learning can be leveraged to drive the district forward with an experienced Board. I bring a business leadership and management background to the board, having run an organization similar in size to OPRFHS. I bring 4 years of D200 experience as an incumbent. I also bring the perspectives of a parent, taxpayer, as well as the father of a teacher, giving me different vantage points.

Would you describe yourself as an agent of social change? Why or why not?

I would not describe myself that way. I am more reflective in nature, observing and listening to what goes on, and then carefully factoring that into my problem solving/ decision making efforts.

One of the most important roles of the school board is connecting with the community, both serving as as an advocate for district improvement and reporting back to the community on the district’s performance. Do you believe the board’s communication processes have been successful in recent years? What specifically would you do to improve two-way communication?

While some efforts, such as community outreach efforts, have been successful, I would say overall that there is ample opportunity to continue to improve, based on feedback from the community on what has been accomplished. Communication media are rapidly changing, with different constituents using different vehicles. We need to upgrade our social media and web site capabilities.

Last year’s referendum for a new pool was voted down in a close vote after polarizing the community. What conclusions have you drawn about the referendum, and how would they inform your approach to the work of the board moving forward?

First, the referendum was not solely about a pool – it was a facilities plan with other improvements. The no vote was complex, as it could have been the solution chosen or the financing solution recommended. What was and is needed is representation from different perspectives involved in crafting a solution.

Oak Park has a persistent achievement gap between white and black students, despite ongoing conversations and a stated commitment to diversity. How will you support the district in addressing the achievement gap? What initiatives would you advocate?

The gap starts at an early age and grows through high school. I fully support continued investment and involvement in the Early Childhood Collaboration, as well as cooperation with our feeder districts. I defer to our administration on specific programs, as that is their expertise. However, as a Board member I am committed to: 1) assuring our efforts are looked at collectively to assure we are putting resources where we see the biggest impact, and 2) that initiatives be aimed at defines barriers that lead to inequity.

Racial bias is a persistent problem in special education. How can the district address this issue at an institutional level?

We must continue to invest in professional development to help our instructors recognize bias and improve their abilities to function in an unbiased way.

The board monitors progress toward district goals and compliance with board policies using data as the basis for assessment. What experience do you have with setting and managing to policies? How comfortable are you with data analysis?

I have policy and goal management experience, both in my profession, as a business manager, and as a D200 School Board member. As a trained engineer and business manager, data analysis is a core competency. I believe strongly that data should drive action.

Staff salary and benefits account for roughly 53% of D200 costs, and the current teacher contract ends 2018. What experience and ideas would you bring to the upcoming contract negotiation?

Salaries and benefits actually total 75% of district costs. I have extensive collective bargaining experience in my job for over a decade, and I was directly involved in the 2014 faculty negotiation. I have studied collective bargaining agreement of many different school districts.

Eighty seven percent of D200 funding comes from local property taxes. How can taxpayers get the most for their money? What experience would you bring to your role of financial oversight for the district?

I have been chair of the D200 finance committee for 4 years. I have experience running a business with a budget slightly larger than OPRFHS. With staffing accounting for 75% of costs, the biggest impact on taxpayer money is in assuring that our employment contracts are aimed at assuring that we attract and retain staff needed to support our students in a fiscally responsible way, versus doing what is best for our staff. Data should be used in that assessment. Elsewhere, there needs to be a constant effort of cost containment, asking how each dollar spent will benefit our students, and how we will know that.

Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.

Michael Perlow – OPRFHS alum and family friend.
Richard Jaffee – father-in-law
Stephen and Mary Jo Schuler