Meet the Board

Jim Gates: Board President
Prior to his election to the Board of Education in 2008, Jim Gates was an educator in District 97 from 1973 to 2006. In July 2006, he joined the DuPage Regional Office of Education as a literacy and writing specialist, and now serves as the organization’s lead middle school consultant.

Gates attended Northeastern Illinois University where he earned his bachelor’s degree and was summa cum laude in Secondary Education and earned his master’s degree and was summa cum laude in 16-17th Century English Literature.

Gates was born in Oak Park and has been a resident of the community since 1976. He and his wife Louise, a retired commercial real estate banker, have three grown children who are educators at the university or middle school level. In addition to his service on the board, Gates is a volunteer at St. Giles parish and Hines Veteran Hospital. Gates was re-elected to the board in April 2013, and currently serves as president. His term will expire in 2017. Gates can be contacted via email at [email protected].

Please click here for information regarding the board training activities Gates has completed.

Amy Felton: Vice President
Amy Felton was appointed to the Board of Education in October 2011, was re-elected in April 2013 and currently serves as vice president.

Felton is a part-time attorney who has had her own Oak Park-based legal practice since 2005. Her primary area of concentration is real estate law. Felton was a member of the board of directors for Parenthesis Family Center for nine years, including the two years she served as president. She was also a member of the board of directors of the President Leadership Council of the Field Museum of Natural History, which included serving as the chair of the board’s policy committee, and was the president of the Holmes Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization. 

Felton earned her bachelor’s degree as a double major in Russian Language & Literature and Political Science from the University of Michigan, and her Juris Doctor from Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She and her husband Thadford have lived in Oak Park since 1997, and are the parents of twin 13-year old boys. Her term on the board will expire in 2017. Felton can be contacted via email at [email protected].

Please click here for information regarding the board training activities Felton has completed.

Graham Brisben: Board Member
Graham Brisben became the newest member of the Board of Education following the election held in April 2013.  


Brisben is an entrepreneur who owns several businesses in the transportation and logistics industries, including Vectora Transportation, LLC and Professional Logistics Group, Inc.

Brisben earned his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa. He moved from Chicago to Oak Park in 2005, has two children enrolled in District 97 schools, and his wife Sandy is a nurse at Lurie Children's Hospital. In his free time, Brisben coaches youth soccer, plays the drums and is a competitive Ultimate Frisbee player. Brisben’s term will expire in 2017. He can be reached via email at [email protected].

Please click here for information regarding the board training activities Brisben has completed.

A. Rupa Datta: Board Member
During the more than 20 years she has worked in the field of applied social science research, A. Rupa Datta has led many large-scale education-related studies for a variety of high-profile clients. She is currently a vice president and senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, where her primary research areas are in early childhood education and post-secondary schooling. She is also a lecturer at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.


Datta earned her doctorate from the Harris School of Public Policy. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Michigan.

Datta’s volunteer work includes the three years she coordinated Beye Elementary School's PTO-sponsored after-school programming, two years of service as a member of District 97's Committee for Legislative Action, Intervention and Monitoring, and a year spent chairing the district's Ad Hoc Dashboard/Benchmark Board Committee. She was also a member of the University of Chicago Alumni Board of Governors for seven years, which included two years spent serving as board president. She currently serves as a member of the Measurement and Evaluation Committee for the Collaboration for Early Childhood.

Datta and her husband Ravi Nemana moved to Oak Park in 2009. They have two children who currently attend Beye Elementary School. Datta's term will expire in 2019.

Jim O’Connor: Board Member
For the past five years, Jim O’Connor has served as the project director at Advance Illinois, which is an independent nonprofit that works to improve the state’s public education system. During his tenure with the organization, he has worked on critical issues such as teacher preparation and school improvement. He also collaborated with community stakeholders and leaders from agencies such as the Illinois State Board of Education on the creation of a report card on the state of education in Illinois.

Prior to joining Advance Illinois, O’Connor was the executive director of student services at School District U-46 in Illinois, where he administered supplemental educational services tutoring for 1,000 students. He was the founding principal at KIPP Ascend Charter School in Chicago’s Austin community, where he served as the leader of the middle school for six years. He was also a biology teacher at Noble Street Charter School on Chicago’s West Side and in rural Arkansas.

O’Connor, who grew up on a farm near Kankakee, Illinois, has degrees from the University of Notre Dame, the University of Chicago and National Louis University. He and his wife Hannah have two children, a second grader and a fourth grader, who attend Irving Elementary School. He was re-elected to the board in April 2015, and his term will expire in 2019. O’Connor can be contacted via email at [email protected]

Please click here for information regarding the board training activities O'Connor has completed.

Bob Spatz: Board Member
Bob Spatz was originally elected to the Board of Education in April 2007. He served as the board president in 2013 and 2014, and was the vice president of the board from 2011 to 2013. He has been a member of numerous District 97 school committees dating back to the mid-1990s, and served on the boards of various community organizations, including Project Unity, the Oak Park Education Foundation and the Collaboration for Early Childhood. He also currently serves as the president of ED-RED and is on the executive board of the West Cook Division of the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Spatz has worked for more than 25 years in various IT and data positions for the Center for Research in Security Prices at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Spatz is a lifelong resident of the Oak Park area. He is a graduate of Emerson Junior High (now Brooks Middle School) and Oak Park and River Forest (OPRF) High School, and lives near the high school with his wife Lisa Ginet. Their son Chris Ginet attended Longfellow Elementary School, Julian Middle School, and OPRF High School, and is a 2014 graduate of Indiana University Bloomington. He was re-elected to the board in April 2015, and his term will expire in 2019. Spatz can be contacted via email at [email protected].

Please click here for information regarding the board training activities Spatz has completed.

Holly Spurlock: Board Member
Holly Spurlock was a practicing attorney for 11 years before becoming a risk manager for Groupon in 2012. As the head of global risk operations at Groupon, she led a 150-person team that was responsible for financial, legal, public relations and risk mitigation in 48 countries, as well as for driving data-driven process change across all departments. She recently joined Vivid Seats as the vice president of Risk Management and Legal Affairs.

As an attorney, Spurlock had the opportunity to work on a variety of education-related pro bono projects, including representing a local organization focused on replicating the Harlem Children's Promise Zone, supporting kids and their families from cradle to college, and working closely with business leaders who joined together for the C.A.R.E. initiative against violence in the city of Chicago.

Spurlock has a bachelor’s degree in Humanities from the University of Texas at Austin, an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and a Juris Doctor from Northwestern University. She, her husband and her two children moved to Oak Park in September 2012. She currently has a kindergartener at Whittier Elementary School and a three-year old enrolled in an early childhood education program in the area. Spurlock's term will expire in 2019.

Sheryl Marinier: Board Secretary