FREDERICK D. ARKIN
candidate for 2019 District 200 School Board
1. What motivates you to seek this office?
My passionate love for our community and the High School.
What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the Board, and why would those contributions be valuable to District 200?
Other than serving on the D200 BOE for the past 4 years; I am a graduate of OPRFHS and have lived the majority of my life in the OPRF community. As a graduate of Washington University’s Olin School of Business, I have been a small business owner and been in the customer service business my entire career. For the past 19 years I have been a commercial insurance broker with an expertise in real estate development, construction and design professionals. I have also served on various boards and contributed my efforts for the youth of our community. Decades of community service in the OPRF community including coaching sports that draw very diverse young athletes in terms of both race and socio-economic status have taught me the importance of listening to and engaging our students in policies that affect them.
2. What do you think makes an effective School Board Member?
The ability to listening to learn. Most decisions board members must make are research and data driven. I view data through an equity lens because data must be measured by a set of values not just return on investment. It is imperative that a school board member have the ability to absorb and assess data in order to make decisions that are for the overall good of the district.
3. What is your understanding of the purpose of the District 200 Board?
The board is the elected representative body charged with overseeing the operations of the district. Through establishment of policies the board sets the culture of the district.
What do you see as the appropriate relationship between the School Board, District staff, and Oak Park River Forest High School itself?
The board sets policy, approves expenditures and hires the superintendent. The board must also engage with stakeholders and the community in the most transparent ways possible.
4. When in your experience have you had to balance competing interests?
The need to upgrade facilities requires us to balance the needs of every stakeholder, the demands of future generations and the cost of such an undertaking.
What process did you use?
We created a community based committee to research and study the overall district needs. We gave the committee a blank sheet of paper rather than specific directives of where we expected them to land.
What did you learn?
How thoughtfully engaged our community members can be, and the importance of including the community on difficult challenges we face. We also realized importance of gaining a community consensus to move initiatives forward.
5. What does transparency in government mean to you?
It is vital that a government’s work is above board and visible in public and available to all.
How would you put it into practice?
Taping and recording of all public meetings. Having information readily available to anyone who requests it. Also I have been and will continue to be available to all stakeholders to meet, answer questions and hear views and concerns.governments work is above board and visible in public and available to all.
6. As more of our local discourse happens in social media, what is your view on how local elected officials should communicate with and respond to constituents?
First, it is important that the board speak with one voice. A board member must be able to differentiate between his voice as a private citizen and the voice of the board. Although I may disagree with a decision of the board, I always accept the issue as a decision of the board and will support it as a member. I also keep in mind that although social media is a great place to disseminate and obtain factual information and gathering opinions of community members and stakeholders there is a greater value in meeting people and talking face to face.
How will you engage with the breadth of the community, and not just the voices that are loudest or easiest to find?
I am readily accessible, I live in Oak Park and work in Forest Park. I spend a great deal of time in the school building as I work with students in after school activities. I have had meetings with constituents, community groups and almost anyone who has ever approached me with questions or concerns. I advocate for more district forums and town hall meetings.
7. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the concerns and needs of residents outside your demographic group (specifically the demographic groups of race, religion, ability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status)?
I have a bi-racial family and I have been the guardian of an African-American teenager. I have spent the majority of my adult life working directly with youth of all races, religions and other disperse demographics, engaging with not only the kids but parents and other adult stakeholders as well. I listen to learn. I try as much as possible to engage with especially the youth of our community (of all demographics) regarding their perspectives, needs and desires.
8. What have been your most useful sources of information about secondary education?
The most useful comes from our administration and staff. Board members constantly question and critique reports and research. I also have a vast network of acquaintances who are educators and am constantly engaging with them on subjects of their expertise. The ISBE and IASB are also great resources for information. I have attended a number of conferences and workshops on a variety of topics directly relevant to my work as a board member.
Have you found any research to be particularly informative?
Absolutely, I have been able to be informed on issues like equity, finance, facilities, safety & security, curriculum and achievement among many other topics. Some of the most vital and up to date information comes directly from my contacts in the education field.
9. Why have property taxes assessed by the District increased so substantially over the past 10-15 years?
First, I suggest all taxpayers examine their property tax bills. Looking at my bill since 2012 my taxes applicable to D200 are actually down 13.33%. This being said yes the overall tax burden in the village is too high. D200 represents about 25% of the overall bill. We must be vigilant in balancing the needs of our students with that of our taxpayers.
Can the District continue without additional tax increases? How?
No, there will be tax increases as long as we have an inflationary economy and expenditures rise. However, it is the job of the school board to minimize those tax increases by containing costs and accurately projecting needs in order to keep future increases to a minimum. Since the great majority of our expenditures are personnel related we must have a disciplined methodology in our recruiting and hiring process. Being able to hire and develop great young teachers will help contain long term costs. In 2003 15% of our revenue came from the state, in 2019 we will only receive 5% of our revenue from the State of Illinois. We must engage with our fellow districts to lobby the State of Illinois for more spending on education.
10. How will you balance the community's desire to decrease the property tax burden with the need to create an equitable environment for all students?
Since over 70% of our expenses are directly related to human capital we need to have a strong synergistic relationship with our unions. Minority hiring is crucial since we value our teachers and union and understand they account for the bulk of our expenditures, the more our faculty reflects our student body, the more we can move towards an equitable environment. We must be able to negotiate contracts that are student centric, in the best interest of our taxpayers and fair to our employees. We must be able to garner union support to cut expenses that are not to our core mission.
11. How do you define equity?
Where each student receives what they need in order for them to reach their maximum potential. As an institution we will have achieved an equitable status when achievement and social/emotional growth is no longer predictable by demographic factors such as race, religion, gender or other social factors.
Do you favor implementing a formal equity lens/framework at District 200, and if so, what specifics should it include?
Yes, I support the work of the administration, CCB and the committee. We must be able to direct resources to those who need them the most. We must engage the community and all stakeholders to break down the barriers especially to crucial information that families need. We must evaluate all policies and programing through a racial equity lens. We must provide access that is equitable to all students that provides them with a rigorous curriculum that is high quality and provides the supports for achievement. We must address disadvantages that lead to disparities in academics and social and emotional issues. I support a district position that is responsible for the implementation of our racial equity policy.
How have you engaged with efforts by the community to push for a comprehensive equity policy?
I have voted for virtually all equity based initiatives. I have advocated for equity since my first day on the board for some of those issues include; minority hiring, more/better access to honors and AP classes, mentoring programs, gender equity policy, revision of dress code and ID policies, implementing restorative justice practices, creating ‘sanctuary school’ status, providing chromebooks for all and internet access for those in need, hiring of full-time social workers and psychologist and most importantly hiring an experienced and passionate African-American Superintendent focused on equity work.
12. The incoming board will be responsible for deciding which elements of the Imagine Plan, if any, to act upon. What factors will inform your decisions about whether and when to move forward with the various components of the plan?
The critical work of the Imagine Group was the creation of the Facilities Needs Assessment Overview This 56 page document is culmination of all of the study and research done over 18 months by the group. This is the document that has informed my decisions regarding facilities.
How will you prioritize these factors?
Again the Facilities Needs Assessment Overview contains a prioritization. This needs to be balanced with the availability of capital. We must also engage the community to hear their priorities. We know the plan is expensive and we have to examine a variety of methods to finance future projects as to put minimal strain on our taxpayers. That is why I am involved and leading efforts to establish a capital campaign to raise outside funding for facilities.
13. America to Me focused national attention on Oak Park River Forest High School, and in particular on issues of race, equity, and the opportunity gap. How do you expect that will affect your tenure on the Board?
We have been working of equity issues since I joined the board. Since the airing of ATM the community has been more willing to support our desire to move forward and more aggressively on the issues of equity. So the value ATM provides is that it has activated the community around social justice and equity issues. I think it has done the district a great favor in illustrating the disparities faced by students of different races, genders and ethnic heritage. I expect the lasting effect will be to have the community support our most of those issues that are embodied in our strategic plan.
14. District 200 makes use of some restorative practices through the Courageous Conversations program. In your view, has this initiative been successful? Do you see additional opportunities to employ restorative justice practices in the District?
Frankly, up until fall 2018 I saw little or no restorative practices being implemented. I am one of the board members who has implored the administration to implement restorative justice practices. The district is actively training and implementing restorative practices with the help of Umoja. We expect this work will be reflected in lower disciplinary issues and the reduction in disparities in our discipline system.
15. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
My campaign is in the initial stages, donations are/will be coming from family and friends and members of the Oak Park and River Forest Community. This information is public and available on the Illinois State Board of Elections Website.
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[The above answers were submitted on 2/13/19. For current financial information, please see Friends for Fred financials at Illinois Sunshine. Illinois Sunshine is also a useful resource for identifying past contributions by individuals to political candidates and committees in Illinois.]
Re-Elect Fred Arkin to District 200 School Board (candidate Facebook page)
Fighting for equity and tax accountability (WJ 3/26/19)
Arkin for D200, simply the best (WJ 3/26/19)
Arkin to carry on D200's hard work (WJ 3/26/19)
Return talented, passionate Arkin to D200 (WJ 3/26/19)
OPRF Faculty Senate endorsement (WJ 3/19/19)
Exceptional candidates for extraordinary times (WJ 3/19/19)
Re-elect Fred Arkin to the D200 board (WJ 3/19/19)
Candidate Profile (WJ 3/14/19)
Trust, transparency and the D200 election (WJ 3/12/19)
D200 incumbent touts successes in re-election pitch (WJ 2/26/19)
Imagine OPRF plan's future now in the hands of school board members (Oak Leaves 11/16/18)
At OPRF, tassels will fly but graduation stays put (WJ 10/30/18)
OPRF to develop racial equity policy (WJ 9/25/18)
OPRF employee benefits approved just ahead of open enrollment (Oak Leaves 11/7/17)
As pools deteriorate, OPRF makes contingency plans (Oak Leaves 3/24/17)
OPRF begins process for interim superintendent search (Oak Leaves 6/17/16)
Friends for Fred financials (Illinois Sunshine)
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Oak Park Property Tax Watch Forum (Facebook Live 3/4/19)
Equity dominates King Day candidates forum (WJ 1/22/19)
Suburban Unity Alliance School Board Candidate Forum (Facebook Live 1/21/19)
Election a go-go (WJ 12/18/19)