The Forest Park Review sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The Review’s questions are in bold and the candidate’s responses are below.
Name: David Ocampo
Previous Political Experience: None
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Den Leader, Westchester Cub Scout Pack 73; volunteer, Junior Achievement
Occupation: Data engineer for Energizer Holdings
Education: Master’s degree in information systems management
1. Please describe what, in your opinion, have been specific accomplishments made by District 209 over the past two years.
Implementation of the Facility Master Plan (FMP) from prior Superintendent is being implemented. HVAC and improvements across the three campuses. The introduction of the girls’ wrestling program is noteworthy.
2. Dr. James Henderson has had both supporters and critics of his administration since his appointment as superintendent of Proviso Township High School. Please provide your opinion of the work he has done at D209, including his relationship with faculty, his communications with parents and community, his management of a complex organization through a pandemic.
Dr. Henderson joined the Proviso school district during a period of uncertainty. His leadership and actions, however, have worsened the learning environment. He has gutted the IT department to the point that the skeleton crew is overwhelmed and can barely service our students and faculty with hardware and software needs. Lack of transportation continues to plague the district. The execution of the bus contract with First Student at the last minute did not demonstrate proper planning. To this day, the public hasn’t seen any evaluations on his performance. As a taxpayer, I am concerned with the management of my tax dollars. His relationship with faculty, students and the community is rocky, at best. I’ve witnessed his Facebook tirades against the community.
3. As a board member, how would you respond to complaints and protests brought by students concerned with their education?
Responses from students should be treated with the utmost respect and urgency. Policies and procedures should be followed when addressing issues and should be respected at all levels – faculty, administration and board. However, assuming all issues have the same severity, I would like to document these issues to identify trends. Are we seeing an increase in a particular complaint? Let’s also allocate time to community workshops to better address ongoing issues and increase community engagement. Solutions require all parties at the table. We won’t know if we’re improving without valuable feedback from our community.
4. Do you believe that the strike by teachers last year was unavoidable? How do you believe the district benefited by the strike’s resolution?
It could have been avoided with proper, respectful dialog and having a board member present during negotiations. The educators did not want to strike, but it was their last resort to call attention to the lack of a contract. Educators currently face less-than-ideal working conditions: increased class sizes, lack of resources and support. The stress created by the situation compounded now with an ongoing severe teacher shortage is affecting our students negatively.
5. If you are elected to what continues to be a divided school board, what skills would you bring to governing productively?
Being productive on the board requires cohesion, unity and strong interpersonal skills. The board must demonstrate trust and maintain respectful dialog with all stakeholders. As a servant leader within my community, I have volunteered in serving the youth from teaching them financial literacy to life skills in the scouts. I am ready to offer my skills as a data engineer/analyst and lessons from life experiences to improve our district. Sandra, Jenny and I offer a fresh perspective and are confident that we can help move the district forward.