Eric Davis for District 200 Board of Education
District 200 Board of Education (Illinois - it's our local high school board/district) in IL http://www.ericdavis4.us
1112 N. Lombard Ave.
Oak Park, IL
Public Phone Number: 708-351-0653
Public Email: [email protected]
Primary Election Date: 2013-04-09 General Election Date: 2013-04-09
Who am I?
We have lived in Oak Park, immediately west of Chicago, for 13 years. We have one son who is a senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRF) and another who will be a freshman there next year. Professionally I am an architect who designs public buildings, mainly schools, and I have my own practice, Public Design Architects.
I am completing my second term as an Oak Park Township Trustee. Because of my leadership in creating our new Senior Center, whose design and construction I oversaw, I received the 2012 Excellence in Public Service award from our statewide township organization - from the over 1400 townships in Illinois. Previously I also received the Elected Official of the Year award from the statewide township senior service committees association.
In terms of the school and education, I currently also serve on two volunteer committees at OPRF, including the facilities planning task force - a role I've performed professionally many times. I am also on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) advisory committee. I have taught in the middle and elementary schools through our local Architecture Adventure program, I have taught urban design at IIT and Notre Dame, and I currently hold a substitute teacher's certificate (K-12) in our local region - since I design schools I wanted to be able to get some hands-on classroom experience.
I was involved with DFA at its inception; I helped lead the Dean campaign in Illinois and was literally at the table when Gov. Dean talked about it here with our core leadership when the campaign ended. Gov. Dean himself asked me the "What are you going to run for?" question in 2004 which led to my Township campaign and election - with DFA's incredibly helpful endorsement - in 2005. I was re-elected in 2009, running unopposed, and did not need to run an active campaign. I organized and ran DFA meetups in our local community here for over five years.
Why am I running?
I have already been successful as a local elected official, completing an important new center and receiving awards for my service, and with our children now there and my own involvement at the school it was time for a new challenge. I've been working on creating schools and with school boards for 30 years - this seemed like the logical next step.
I love our local high school and it needs good leadership, which my experience can provide.
Our local school is a unique place with unique challenges - we compete academically with the top prep and selective-enrollment schools in the Chicago area but our demographic range is far greater; because of this we have an "achievement gap" challenge that is greater than any other school in the state.
Recently, the Township that I help lead got all of the other taxing bodies in our community (schools, village, park board, library board, etc.) to sign off on renewing our joint commitment to - and funding of - the Township's youth interventionist program in the schools. I plan to use my experience in getting government agencies to work better together to make more progress addressing our achievement gap.
Therefore one goal is to establish inter-district peer tutoring. We currently have peer tutoring at the school but this is a more holistic approach for our low-achieving kids. Even those who struggle with reading still read better in high school than they did in elementary school, and any teacher will tell you that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. So instead of saying, essentially, "You suck and you just need to work harder," this program would say, “We value what you can do, we want you as part of the team, we want to use what you know to help other kids.” Right now though, since the high school is a separate district from the K-8 schools, there is a real functional disconnect between the elementary and secondary school programs. I want to use my experience to help bridge the gap and take more of a one-community approach to helping students who are struggling the most. Just as I helped convince the high school board to recently contribute to funding the same new early-childhood program I helped lead us to embrace at the Township, this approach would further the notion that we can’t wait until kids arrive as freshmen to address the achievement gap.
Another goal, related to this, is to establish mandatory community service. The neighboring Chicago public school system does this at many of their top high schools but curiously this has never been implemented here. It’s going to take experienced leadership. Not only with the inter-district peer tutoring program help this, but community service is important in developing our students’ values and it even helps our elite Honors/AP students, because the competitive colleges to which they apply want to see community service. Many of our kids do exceptional things in our community already but this would expand our community’s progressive spirit to include more of our young people.
My DFA Values
Oak Park is perhaps the most progressive community in Illinois - we are referred to as "the Madison (or Berkeley) of Illinois" or "the People's Republic of Oak Park" - a badge we wear proudly. Some of the nation's first Fair Housing laws come from here, for example.
My work as a Township trustee has led to more and better services for seniors, bringing them to a disabled-accessible storefront service center, with good public transit, on one of our main business streets. I also helped led our board to fund an innovative early childhood education program, establish a Living Wage policy for our own employees, and strengthen our interventionist program in the schools, which gives kids who've made or might make bad choices better alternatives and support.
I am running against an ugly tide. There are 13(!) candidates seeking 4 open seats, and with the exception of one incumbent I am the only one with experience as an elected official - several candidates signed up at the last minute in an almost Tea-Party-like response to the current tax and levy situation here. Two of the candidates - both endorsed by the local paper - are local businessmen whose platform boils down to "we should run government more like a business," which is a terrible idea for schools.
I am a proven progressive, with experience and creativity, and a track record of organizing DFA action in our community.
My Campaign is People Powered!
While at least two of my opponents are self-funding businessmen, with graphic design consultants and money for lots of ads and signs (but no experience), I have been a pure grassroots campaign. I deliberately did not want to exceed the limit ($3500) to require the formation of a committee, the submitting of regular campaign reports, etc., for what is an unpaid, volunteer position.
I have been fortunate to have the support of a solid group of neighbors, including several who used to participate with me in our local DFA meetups. They have done things like distribute yard signs and literature in their neighborhood, host a coffee, or write a supportive letter to the editor in the local paper. Most important has been networking; through my friends I have drawn hits on my website and my Facebook page (ericdavis4oprf) which has led to a surge of page views and clicks.