Prior to the May 1 meeting, Candance Chow and Suni Kartha each submitted notices that they were running for the position of President of the School Board. Ms. Chow served as Board President for the last year during which time the Board approved the $14.5 million operating referendum, negotiated a new contract with the District Educators Council (DEC, the teachers union), and adopted an Equity Statement. She previously took the lead in developing the District’s five-year strategic plan.
Ms. Kartha served as Chair of the District’s Policy Committee, which recently developed the transgender policy.
The Board voted, 4-3, for Ms. Kartha, with Ms. Kartha, Anya Tanyavutti, Sergio Hernandez, and Joseph Hailpern voting for Ms. Kartha; and Ms. Chow, Lindsay Cohen, and Omar Brown voting for Ms. Chow.
Board members did not have any discussion about the candidates or give the reasons for their votes at the meeting.
Before the vote, seven people urged the Board to elect Ms. Chow as President.
Carlos Briones, who said he was a Mexican, an immigrant, gay, a member of a marginalized community, and the Chair of the Diversity Council at Oakton Community College, said he “strongly supported” Ms. Chow. He said Ms. Chow finished first in the April 4 election for members of the School Board, with 17% more votes than Ms. Kartha, and that Ms. Chow received support in every ward, “reflecting the confidence the community has in her. You can let their voices be heard.”
Mr. Briones said Mr. Chow helped the Board achieve many important outcomes. “Her effectiveness resulted in a successful community vote on the referendum. While other Board members were involved, no one worked harder than Candance. She played a lead role in the completion of the teachers’ contract this fall, avoiding a strike and getting the teachers and community all a fair deal.
“She also served as the lead for the Board in discussing the five-year strategic plan. These are just some examples of her direct role in leadership.
“Finally, Candance has been a champion for equity,” Mr. Briones continued. “Not simply in rhetoric but in action and, again, results. The equity work that has been instituted or extended in the year that Candance has served as President includes equity walk audits in every school, the authoring of the equity educational statement, new professional development opportunities, expansion of restorative justice and culturally responsive instructional programs. Candance not only supported each of these, but advocated for their development and expansion.”
Amber Yancy Carroll said, “Candance has helped usher the District through one of the greatest fiscal challenges, while preventing significant cuts to the classroom. … Her work on the strategic plan and leadership, along with the Board, led to a resounding victory for the District and the Board just this past month.
“She garnered unquestionable support from every corner of Evanston. The community overwhelmingly supported the Board’s vision for the District and entrusted the District with a substantial amount of funding to support that message and vision. The community’s unwavering support in terms of votes for the referendum was in large part due to the expectation that Candance would continue to be at the helm to lead us to the other side of the fiscal crisis. It would be disingenuous to now vote her out as Board President. I would like to think that the Board values and respects the community’s voice and values, as much as our money.
“I am a black mother in the District and have witnessed challenges and inequities at my own school,” said Ms. Carroll. “I have found Candance’s vision for addressing inequities to be compelling …. Candance’s commitment to every child in the District is unquestionable. She is unwavering in her commitment to ensure proper funding for our public schools to be able to address equity challenges, while at the same time being sensitive to the financial burden of some in the community.
“She has supported evidence-based decision making, advocating for more robust data and evaluating disparities in suspensions and looking more closely at the achievement gap, which is necessary to address inequity issues in a meaningful and impactful way. I believe issues such as inequity in the achievement gap warrant such methodological and empirical approaches, in contrast to symbolic gestures.
“I believe that the continued leadership will give the Board the much needed continuity and respect for the Evanston community at a time when it is needed most.”
While there were supporters of Ms. Kartha present at the meeting, none spoke.
After the vote, Ms. Kartha said, “As we embark on our work together, it is my hope to keep the following tenets foremost in our minds:
• That our primary purpose is to support high quality education for all students in our schools with a particular focus on identifying and removing barriers to an equitable learning environment;
• That we are a seven-member Board, each of us with a different level of experiences and perceptions that deserve to be equally valued and considered as we make important policy and financial decisions;
• That our accomplishments belong to all of us and our strength is in our collective voice and action;
• That we lead a District of enormously talented educators, both in and out of our classrooms, who have expertise that can and should inform our decisions;
•That we sit here as representatives of a rich diverse community of committed and engaged stakeholders who also offer lived experiences and perspectives, and that we should always be willing to hear and embrace, whether laudatory or expressing concerns.”
Ms. Kartha said she plans to improve collaboration, be mindful of fiscal stewardship, and explore ways to make the Board’s work more transparent and inclusive.