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Building on a strong foundation at OPRF

Opinion: Columns

March 14th, 2017 3:59 PM

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In addition, we took on a 15-year stalemate around our outdated, crumbling pools and though not yet resolved, we narrowed the options considerably and set the stage for reaching a broad community consensus.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