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home : elections : elections July 21, 2017

3/8/2017 9:00:00 AM
District 65 School Board Candidates, Profiles

Evanston has two school boards.  The District 65 School Board oversees the elementary and middle schools and the pre-primary program; the District 202 School Board guides Evanston Township High School.  Both Districts include all of Evanston and a small part of Skokie.  Each Board has seven members serving four-year terms (except where a Board member resigns and another person is appointed to serve the balance of the term or is on the ballot to fill the balance of a term).  Elections take place in the spring of odd-numbered years for three or four members of each Board.  Each School Board is responsible for adopting and overseeing policies, setting the budget, levying taxes to support the budget, and entering into contracts for professional personnel and services to the schools.  School Boards also select the superintendent of schools who is responsible for implementing school policies and administering school operations. 

School Board members are volunteers and receive no salary.  

 



There are five candidates running for four-year terms on the District 65 School Board: Candance Chow (incumbent), Lindsay M. Cohen, Joseph A. Hailpern, Sunith Kartha (incumbent), and Nicholas Korzeniowski. There are four open positions for four-year terms, so voters will select four of these five candidates in the April 4 election.

Anya Tanyavutti (incumbent) is the only candidate running for a two-year term.

The Evanston League of Women Voters (LWVE) and the Evanston RoundTable have partnered in preparing profiles of these candidates. Each candidate was asked to provide background information and to answer a set of questions prepared and sent to the candidates by the LWVE and the RoundTable, with answers limited to 150 words. The profiles below contain each candidate’s unedited responses to the questions (up to the stated word limit for each response). A thumbnail sketch of each candidate was prepared by RoundTable staff, based on the background information provided by the candidate.

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.




Candance Chow (Running for Four-Year Term)



Thumbnail sketch:
M.B.A., Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Employment: More than 25 years of experience in leading improvements in both business and nonprofits in the areas of strategy development, innovation and operational performance as a management consultant and staff leader.   

Civic activities: President, District 65 School Board, Member since 2013; Former Chair, District 65 Finance Committee. Volunteer tutor; Member, advisory boards of Community Partners for Affordable Housing, and Evanston COPE; avid student of educational trends, issues and policies at the local, state and national levels.

Question: What are your key attributes that qualify you for a position on the District 65 School Board?

In addition to my unwavering commitment to public education as the very foundation of our society, I bring these qualities to the Board:

- experienced leadership, serving as finance chair, currently school board president, and on numerous board committees over last four years

- Extensive knowledge of student, school and teacher needs

- Excellent strategic, analytical and problem solving skills 

- Understanding of the role of board in terms of creating a vision, working with the Administration to execute on that vision and holding ourselves and our district accountable along the way

- Passionate, trusted collaborator and advocate for schools and community  

Question: What would be your top three priorities as a School Board member? What would you do to advance your priorities?

1) Academic Success for ALL Students. This requires focus on early literacy, culturally responsive instruction, and meeting whole child needs. Since 2015, we have seen a 10% increase in student growth and 13% reduction in number of students considered struggling readers. I will prioritize resources so this work continues.

2) Accountability and Financial Solvency.  I will work to ensure the Board spends time and attention on monitoring progress and adjusting strategies to meet our goals of better and more equitable outcomes for all kids.  If/when we make significant cuts, I will work with my colleagues so its done in a way that mitigates impact on our most vulnerable children.

3) Collaboration and Partnerships to Achieve Impact.  From community schools to our on staff NU STEM coordinator, D65 has expanded and deepened opportunities for students and families.  I am fully committed to continuing our partnerships to better serve students and families because we cannot do it alone. 

Question: Describe one or two specific contributions you would make to enhance the achievement and critical thinking skills of students at all levels of achievement.

I continue to believe that the diversity of our student body makes our schools and community unique and amazing.  I want to support our educators and staff in building their practice in ways to ensure each of these very different children can be known, valued, and in turn positioned to reach their full potential. This comes through a consistent and long-term commitment to our school climate teams that look at the wellness and relationships of our children and adults in each building.  It comes in ensuring students see themselves in their role models and have a caring adult to help guide them.  It will require accountability for more diversity in our hiring process for the teachers, and amplifying the culture of caring we have to new levels.  Finally it comes by supporting our teachers and staff in real and concrete ways to deliver on the promise of differentiation. 

Question: Is the District moving in the right direction and doing enough to address issues of equity and disparities in achievement between different demographic groups? Identify one or two things you think the District is doing right and one or two things you think the District should be doing that it is not currently doing?

The district is moving in the right direction. Our challenge is to maintain focus because real change requires sustained commitment.  The Board and Administration have created complete transparency as to our disparities in achievement.  We have put attention and resources to implementing our equity agenda.  This year we will conduct equity training across Board, Administration, educators and staff. We are seeing the fruits of our work in prek-3 literacy, culturally responsive instruction, and focus on striving learners.  We have turned the corner on a five-year trend of worsening achievement for students across the spectrum of learners and are seeing accelerated growth among all groups of students.

Regarding work we should be doing, I look forward to implementation of improvements in our science curriculum as part of our STEM initiative.  If we had the resources, I would also seek to expand the wrap around services and interventions we have in place for striving learner to all students below the 40%. … 

Question: Do you support the District’s five-year strategic plan? Is the District moving in the right direction with the plan? If so, briefly explain why. If you think it should be doing things differently, identify one or two things it should be doing differently?

I fully support the five-year plan. Yet I believe we have more work to do in explicitly connecting it to our equity agenda and lifting up the components of the plan that will accelerate our progress for all students.  This plan is holistic because it acknowledges that social emotional learning and safe, supportive climates in schools form the foundation for academic success.  Lastly, this is the first time this district has had a set of progress and success metrics that includes but goes beyond standardized test scores to hold us accountable for student perceptions of academic rigor, parent engagement/trust, and educator recruitment and retention as essential ingredients to preparing a child for his/her future.

Question: How essential are student, parent and school partnerships, and what is needed to make them successful?  What role should District 65 play in the Cradle to Career initiative?

It is absolutely essential that a trusting, open and mutually supportive relationship exist between caring adults in a child’s life and our schools.  Success requires teachers, administrators and Board to think differently about what “involvement” means and creatively look for ways all parents, grandparents and caregivers can be engaged in a valued, positive way in their child’s schooling.  It also means being clear and transparent about the role each of us plays in helping children be successful and making that commitment to the family so trusting bonds can grow. 

District 65’s relationship with Cradle to Career is part of the backbone of our communitywide commitment to improving literacy for all children and youth.  I have seen substantial benefits especially in creating a more seamless connection between early childhood and k-3 as evidenced in our improvements in kindergarten readiness in the past year.  I look forward for this work to continue.

Question: Do you support the proposed $14.5 million referendum that will appear on the April 4 ballot? If so, please explain. If not, how would you balance the District’s budget going forward?

I support the referendum because I believe we must continue the progress being made for all students. Strong schools are the hallmark of Evanston and the reason many of us moved here.  I also know firsthand that the District has taken substantial steps to reduce costs and further reductions will affect learning.  Enrollment has increased by almost 1500 students in the past decade. Yet our model of education funding through local property taxes that are capped by CPI doesn’t take this huge growth into account. Therefore, the ability of the District to meet our growth in expenses due to normal cost increases and the growing population has been significantly limited.  We can’t serve our nearly 8,000 students and families adequately this way. I remain concerned about the impact of increasing taxes on residents and am working with public officials on identifying possible tax relief for those in need.

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Lindsay Cohen (Running for Four-Year Term)



Thumbnail sketch:
B.S., Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences and Economics, Northwestern University; M.B.A., Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.  Current employment: Marketing Director at a consumer finance startup (with two former NU classmates and about 20 other people. Previous employment: Actuarial analyst at a pension consulting firm, and over time moved into marketing, and then into entrepreneurship. Sold an online AP test prep business to The Princeton Review.  Lived in Evanston more than 10 years, including time at Northwestern. One child in District 65, two younger.

Civic activities: Actively involved with the Committee for the District 65 Referendum.

Question: What are your key attributes that qualify you for a position on the District 65 School Board?

- I am data driven and highly analytical.

- I believe in making sound, educated decisions based on data.  I have the ability to interpret data and make corresponding actionable insights.

- I possess strong financial acumen.

- I spent a LONG three years as an actuary, and I have a strong understanding of defined benefit pension plans.  Additionally, my experience as a marketer and entrepreneur has contributed to my financial chops.  I’ve been in charge of millions of dollars before with investors and employees to be accountable to. 

- I am a believer in Evanston and in public schools.

- I believe that Evanston is a truly special place.  The challenges that we face at our district are not unique to Evanston, but I believe we can uniquely solve them.

- I am a creative thinker.

Being an entrepreneur has allowed me to hone this skill in a number of ways.

Question: What would be your top three priorities as a School Board member? What would you do to advance your priorities?

Financial Sustainability: I would seek out additional revenue sources, using my position as Board Member to be a liaison to the community.  I would push the Administration on evaluating the efficacy of our programs to ensure dollars are being spent wisely.

Address Equity: I believe the achievement gap needs to be front and center. I want to bring in national partners to help us elevate our solutions.  I would also lobby to bring in additional reading specialists, further our partnership with Cradle to Career, and evaluate before and after school programming.  I would also create a specific communication portal to keep the community engaged and informed on this effort.

Technology Education: I would lobby to have Technology Education added to the agenda for discussion in a Board meeting so that I could present the importance of learning computer programming and convince the Administration that we should look for curriculum additions that incorporate coding.

Question: Describe one or two specific contributions you would make to enhance the achievement and critical thinking skills of students at all levels of achievement.

I would work to bring more technology education to our District, primarily in k-5.  Having access to a device does not replace learning how that device works.  We need to be teaching all of our children programming.  Technology plays a large part n our lives, and jobs in the United States will increasingly require skills developed when learning how to build technology products.  Learning computer programming helps build critical thinking skills regardless of their level of achievement in other academic areas.

I would continue the work that is currently being done with District 202 to create joint goals.  District 65 students must be prepared to enter high school.  We need to define explicitly what that means with District 202 and then create grade-based metrics to work towards. I believe having joint goals will improve the likelihood that each of our students is ready to succeed on day one of high school.

Question: Is the District moving in the right direction and doing enough to address issues of equity and disparities in achievement between different demographic groups? Identify one or two things you think the District is doing right and one or two things you think the District should be doing that it is not currently doing?

The District is moving in the right direction to address the achievement gap.  I don’t think any district can ever be doing “enough” until there are no long gaps.  District 65 is doing better than a lot of other districts, but there are still improvements to be made.  I applaud the work the District is doing with promoting Restorative Justice and its focus on early childhood education and early literacy. 

The District should also focus on before and after school programming to further aid in addressing equity. There appears to be large differences in the quality of the programming utilized amongst different demographic segments.

The District should also be more vocal about the work it is currently doing to address the achievement gap.  There needs to be more excitement and urgency around it.  Parents believe their kids are being marginalized.  That must be a horrific feeling. 

Question: Do you support the District’s five-year strategic plan? Is the District moving in the right direction with the plan? If so, briefly explain why. If you think it should be doing things differently, identify one or two things it should be doing differently?

I support the five-year plan, mostly.  Having this plan in itself is proof that the District is moving in the right direction.  And for the most part, I agree with the course of action.  I appreciate the process that went into developing the plan, especially involving parents to help determine what was most important to the community.  I wish addressing the equity gap was given a more prominent focus.  In the nearly 60-page document, the word ‘equity’ is only mentioned 4 times.  There should be an addendum made that explicitly calls out the work being done on equity. 

I also have concerns around the increase in parent engagement expected in the plan.  As a working mom in a two-parent working household, I can barely keep track of my second grader’s homework.  And I have plenty of help.  I worry this will only serve to create a greater wedge in our community.

Question: How essential are student, parent and school partnerships, and what is needed to make them successful?  What role should District 65 play in the Cradle to Career initiative?

I believe there is some basic level of student, parent and school partnership that is required for students to be successful.  Schools need to ensure parents have the information they need to help their students at home.  Parents need to feel welcome to approach the school and administration.  I feel outside of that base level, how important these partnerships are can vary widely on a case-by-case basis. 

Some students are truly independent and can thrive without much community support.  For others, that is not the case and more engagement should be sought out.  We are so fortunate to live in a place like Evanston where we have the Cradle to Career initiative, rounding up so many community partners to ensure our kids are successful in life.  I agree with the role the District is currently playing with Cradle to Career where we identify students who would benefit from their support.

Question: Do you support the proposed $14.5 million referendum that will appear on the April 4 ballot? If so, please explain. If not, how would you balance the District’s budget going forward?

I support the $14.5 million referendum.  I am actively engaged with the Committee to help ensure its passage.  The District has a structural deficit, with revenues not increasing at the same rate as costs.  It’s a math problem.  The only way to fix the problem in the near term is to increase the revenue we collect.  Given the situation with the state (IL ranks 50th on education funding), and that tax revenues comprise 75% of a $110M budget, there’s really no choice.  I do believe we should also work toward finding a more permanent solution to this ongoing “math problem”.  Without these funds, there would have to be devastating cuts made to our school budget, that quite honestly, I don’t believe our student outcomes can afford.  Going forward, I want to increase revenue from other sources, cut programs that aren’t working, and try to find creative solutions with our bargaining units.
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Joseph Hailpern (Running for Four-Year Term)



Thumbnail sketch:
B.A., Elementary Education, National-Louis University;  M.A., School Administration and Leadership, University of California Los Angeles; Doctoral Candidate in Curriculum and Social Inquiry, (National Louis University). Current employment: a School Principal North Shore School District 112. Previous employment: Teacher in Winnetka, Los Angeles and Evanston (Kingsley School). School Principal in Skokie.

Civic activities: ETHS Swimming and Diving Coach 2000-2006, AYSO Volunteer Soccer Coach, Wildkit Swim Organization Volunteer, Walker PTA Volunteer. Alum of Timber Ridge, Walker, Chute and ETHS; Lived in Evanston 31 years; two children in District 65 schools, two younger.

Question: What are your key attributes that qualify you for a position on the District 65 School Board?

Through my role as a parent, my professional work in education and as a doctoral student focused on policy I am fully immersed in the educational landscape. My experiences help me deeply understand where education's been and where it's going, as well as the important and vital role that each member of the school community plays within that process.

I understand the relationship between the board and the district’s administration. I have experience implementing a school budget and an awareness of the complexities of the district budget process. In professional practice, I have worked with many school boards. I have learned lessons from those experiences that I bring with me. I am a listener and consensus builder. I do not shy away from tough conversations, be it about race, finances, or anything else. I seek to understand the perspectives and needs of the community that I serve.  

Question: What would be your top three priorities as a School Board member? What would you do to advance your priorities?

- Equity of access for all D65 students, particularly those marginalized by our school system

- Fiscal responsibility and sustainability to support the long term functioning of the district at a high level

- Climate and Culture - How boards operate in terms of discussion, policy adoption and negotiations plays a role in how teachers feel they are supported and thereby how environments are established for children.

These goals are best advanced by board members through the strategic plan and holding the administration accountable to the goals and steps within the plan. Great things happen when people work together and the strategic plan, in partnership with administration is the guiding document to drive the mission forward.

Question: Describe one or two specific contributions you would make to enhance the achievement and critical thinking skills of students at all levels of achievement.

The most significant contribution I can make as a board member to the achievement and critical thinking skills of students is to make this a priority as a board member. I would seek to ensure that important topics like this are a part of regular board conversation and continued focus. They would be relevant considerations in the hiring process to support the growth of the organization of people who value growth and achievement of students as well as critical thinking skills.

Question: Is the District moving in the right direction and doing enough to address issues of equity and disparities in achievement between different demographic groups? Identify one or two things you think the District is doing right and one or two things you think the District should be doing that it is not currently doing?

Building upon the work that’s been done it is important to continue to support the equity and access for success of students of color. The student growth statistics on a broad level show that there is clearly a problem that needs an aggressive solution. There are many things happening in our schools and I would be interested to learn more about what programs, strategies, and trainings are most effective or not. When schools are engaging families, inspiring students, and building amazing relationships, students do better. We need to know what, of our practices are most effective, why, and find ways of scaling what works.

Question: Do you support the District’s five-year strategic plan? Is the District moving in the right direction with the plan? If so, briefly explain why. If you think it should be doing things differently, identify one or two things it should be doing differently?

The District’s five year strategic plan is a terrific document now that there is the inclusion of an equity statement. The board should continue to ensure that this document outlines a vision for long term focus within our schools. However, execution of the plan and handling the evolution of the strategic tasks within the plan require a keen eye and thoughtful governance.

A priority area for continued focus must be on finding solutions to narrowing the achievement gap for students of color; student data and community conversations strongly support this. Maintaining the strong community partnerships whose existence continues to shed light on what is working beyond our school walls will help ensure the District’s lead as a part of the wrap around solution of support for our students who are struggling.

Question: How essential are student, parent and school partnerships, and what is needed to make them successful?  What role should District 65 play in the Cradle to Career initiative?

Cradle to Career and other community partnerships are important for the school district in helping sustain an integrated web of support, which combines and leverages local resources with the shared goal of more effectively and efficiently raising our children.

School is the intersectionality of the relationships between educators, students, parents, and the community. Direct ongoing dialogue between these constituents via school events, community engagements, and home-school partnerships all serve to strengthen these interrelationships and celebrate our district's and community's diversity.

As a board member I would seek to ensure that all community members are aware of the district’s partnerships and resources. Growing our district role as a leader in the broader social support networks of the community, like Cradle to Career, requires active and healthy relationships with current and future organizations.

Question: Do you support the proposed $14.5 million referendum that will appear on the April 4 ballot? If so, please explain. If not, how would you balance the District’s budget going forward?

From the presentations and discussions I have heard around how the district/board came to putting the referendum on the ballot, I do agree with the decision. The district is caught in the middle of an interesting state budget crisis. While much of our district dollars come from local property taxes, there are enormous challenges locally and across the state that could trigger a larger problem down the road. It is prudent for the district to maintain running a balanced budget with an eye forward to account for the possible and likely issues that the state may pass back to the local districts.

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Sunith Kartha (Running for Four-Year Term)



Thumbnail sketch: B.A., Northwestern University; J.D., Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Civic activities: Member, District 65 School Board; Evanston Cradle to Career Parent/Caregiver Empowerment Team; Board of Unity Preschool; tutor in the Everybody Reads and Math is FUNdamental fluency programs; former Co-President, Orrington School PTA; past volunteer, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services and  Chicago Ballet Arts. Lived in Evanston since 2001; two children in District 65 schools.

Question: What are your key attributes that qualify you for a position on the District 65 School Board?

My almost 4 years of school board service has been an invaluable learning experience and has poised me to continue to be a strong advocate for our schools. Prior to joining the board, I practiced law, primarily in the areas of advertising/promotions and Internet privacy. I have also received a certificate in mediation training. With these legal and negotiation skills, I am able to analyze complex problems and think through viable solution, balancing varied and often competing interests.

Question: What would be your top three priorities as a School Board member? What would you do to advance your priorities?

Our schools are not serving all our students equitably. Race, too often, is the determinative factor - in grades, test scores, discipline. It is a priority that we maintain a sense of urgency in addressing the needs of our marginalized populations, particularly our black and brown students. I will use an equity lens in all decision making and be steadfast in my commitment to making institutional change.

I will provide strong and experienced leadership to guide the district through financial uncertainty (from the referendum question to unknowns about state and federal funding) in a way that ensures our resources are allocated where the need is greatest.

I believe that there has been an increasing blurring of the lines between board governance and administrative responsibilities, most recently highlighted with the controversial board decision overriding an administrative hire. I believe the board needs to reset its understanding of its governance role.

Question: Describe one or two specific contributions you would make to enhance the achievement and critical thinking skills of students at all levels of achievement.

I will continue to support evidence-based, student-centered recommendations from our educators. I will push for all decisions to be made through an equity lens and will work to ensure that resources are allocated where the need is greatest. I will continue to support strategic plan outcome goals that require us to see not just a reduction in the achievement gap but also growth for students at both the top and bottom quartiles. I will continue to push for the development of a robust equity policy that will help us identify and remove the barriers to achievement by marginalized groups.

Question: Is the District moving in the right direction and doing enough to address issues of equity and disparities in achievement between different demographic groups? Identify one or two things you think the District is doing right and one or two things you think the District should be doing that it is not currently doing?

District 65 needs to work with more urgency to address issues of racial equity and the achievement gap. The school climate work we are doing is essential in moving us in the right direction, and I am pleased that the board adopted a racial equity statement and agreed to conduct an equity “audit” to help us develop an equity policy. But statements and policy are not enough. I have taken an intense, 2-day equity training seminar and continue to look for ways to deepen my understanding of race in education. I will push for decision-making with an equity lens, so that we do not negatively and  disproportionately impact marginalized groups. I will challenge us to remove systemic barriers that marginalize our black and brown students. I will push for us to reach out to traditionally underrepresented populations and ensure that their voices and concerns are being heard.

Question: Do you support the District’s five-year strategic plan? Is the District moving in the right direction with the plan? If so, briefly explain why. If you think it should be doing things differently, identify one or two things it should be doing differently?

I support the District’s five-year strategic plan as it incorporates the equity policy we will develop. I believe the broad goals identified are strong and am particularly pleased with the school climate work that recognizes the importance of social and emotional learning to the academic and overall well-being of students. But we, correctly, determined last spring that the strategic plan did not strongly or explicitly enough address the work we need to reduce racial disparities in how we educate our students and agreed to develop a separate equity policy to act as an addendum to our strategic plan.

Question: How essential are student, parent and school partnerships, and what is needed to make them successful?  What role should District 65 play in the Cradle to Career initiative?

Family and community engagement is an important goal in our strategic plan. Evanston Cradle to Career is a way for the district to engage with community partners, as well as to  support students and families beyond the time they are in our schools. For example, I have been deeply involved in Evanston Cradle to Career, as co-chair of the Parent/Caregiver Empowerment Team, which focuses on supports and education for families with babies aged 0-3. I believe that the vision for collective impact is strong and achievable over time. I also serve as a board representative to the Evanston Community Schools Initiative Leadership Council. Community schools are another model of collective impact that I believe can be a powerful tool in engaging students and families and connecting community resources to the school community.

Question: Do you support the proposed $14.5 million referendum that will appear on the April 4 ballot? If so, please explain. If not, how would you balance the District’s budget going forward?

I voted in favor of placing the referendum question on the ballot. Given the magnitude of the deficits we are looking at, and knowing how budget cuts of that size could transform our schools, I believe it is appropriate to educate the community on what the options are and ask for their guidance on the future of their schools. In the event the referendum doesn’t pass, I believe the board should analyze budget cuts using an equity lens and that our priority should be, as much as possible, that cuts do not disproportionately affect our striving learners and traditionally marginalized students.

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Nicholas Korzeniowski (Running for Four-Year Term)



Thumbnail sketch:
Studied Political Science, International Relations, and Continental Philosophy at the University of Kansas; Cisco Certified Network Associate in Routing and Switching. Current employment: Network Systems Administrator for Skokie District 69.  Previous employment, Network Systems Administrator at Wilmette 39, Winnetka 36, and Kildeer 96.  Prior to his work in public schools, he worked for Apple.

Civic activities: Member of the Outreach Committee for the D65 Referendum campaign and the City Club of Chicago; volunteered at several Armenian International Women's Association events; past mentor and trainer at Apple; policy debate coach, judge at local tournaments. Born in Evanston, grew up in Winnetka, and settled back in Evanston in 2010; lives with his wife, Svetlana, and son, Christian, a rising kindergartner.

Question: What are your key attributes that qualify you for a position on the District 65 School Board?

Nick has significant experience steering the numerous responsibilities, logistics, and finances for entire technology departments of local school districts.  Be it either a high-functioning or distressed district, Nick has successfully guided improvements  and solutions with remarkable results, earning acclaim from in and around the communities. He firmly believes that to be successful in the modern day, a school district needs to consider technology and curriculum as two sides of the same coin.  If that ideal is betrayed  entire student populations pay for the consequences, with great impacts on their K-8 experience.  However, when technology and curriculum are developed in harmony, every student has the opportunity to thrive. As District 65 prepares to implement changes to the technology budget, we need a knowledgeable leader who can effectively guide and shape this process.

Question: What would be your top three priorities as a School Board member? What would you do to advance your priorities?

Nick’s primary aim is to bring oversight to the district’s myriad technology programs, ensuring successful implementation and meaningful results.  He seeks to identify programs that are not fulfilling their potential and reform them, leading to long term curricular and financial stability and success.  Those successes should be measured in terms of how they serve to close the student achievement gap, another issue of importance to Nick. Nick believes that a rising tide lifts all ships, and that we as a community are responsible for providing all of our children with the tools necessary for their success. Lastly, Nick hopes to steer gains towards solidifying a pragmatic operating budget ahead of the next teacher contract negotiations, so a timely, amicable contract is deliverable. These steps will ensure the continued quality of our children's education.

Question: Describe one or two specific contributions you would make to enhance the achievement and critical thinking skills of students at all levels of achievement.

Nick believes in properly wedding technology and curriculum.  Students need more than just an assortment of apps on a device; it’s important to give these exercises structure, context, and meaning. To enhance achievement and critical thinking skills, we must work toward engaging students with deliberately curated experiences in the classroom, with both hardware and software.  Nick has seen the detrimental results of for-profit curricular products being created, marketed, and delivered with the specific goal of school-use: the bottom line for those products and companies is not a more successful student body, but rather their own financial bottom lines.  That is precisely why we must remain thoughtful and vigilant in how we engage our students with technology, and properly train our educators on how to maximize and measure the impact of these tremendous tools.

Question: Is the District moving in the right direction and doing enough to address issues of equity and disparities in achievement between different demographic groups? Identify one or two things you think the District is doing right and one or two things you think the District should be doing that it is not currently doing?

Nick believes the District has taken important steps toward closing the achievement gap, and applauds the work done to build and sustain effective community partnerships as part of that effort. We must employ a multifaceted approach to successfully implementing partnership programs and policies, as well as in monitoring and measuring continued development of students.  But Nick also sees room for growth when it comes to transparency and accountability; for instance, he believes we need to directly address the discrepancies in disciplinary policies. In recent years, suspension rates have fallen, yet overall incident rates have risen sharply. The data suggests that students are being held to inconsistent standards for disciplinary infractions, with time away from the curriculum seeming to be the most disruptive factor in overall student success. Nick believes greater transparency and clearer guidelines for disciplinary action could help address this disparity and promote equity.

Question: Do you support the District’s five-year strategic plan? Is the District moving in the right direction with the plan? If so, briefly explain why. If you think it should be doing things differently, identify one or two things it should be doing differently?

Nick supports the strategic plan, especially the call for a more vertically integrated approach to curriculum, but feels it has shortcomings which must be addressed.  The current strategic plan mentions “curriculum” seventeen times, but “technology” only seven, limited to pertaining to budget woes or STEM programs.  Technology must be more fully integrated into the learning environment for the goals outlined by the strategic plan for the excellence of our teachers to be met. Unfortunately, the Digital Promise is an all-too-common folly towards those lofty goals; iPad devices with insufficient storage capacities are deployed without any apparent management or meaningful oversight, and without any informed consensus on what apps should be included and utilized.  Failures in proper management and execution result in underperformance and eventual abandonment of device-delivered curriculum. That’s not just a waste of District money and resources, it’s an unnecessary and inexcusable disappointment of our students and their potential. 

Question: How essential are student, parent and school partnerships, and what is needed to make them successful?  What role should District 65 play in the Cradle to Career initiative?

Cradle to Career is a foundational pillar in our effort to close the student achievement gap, as well as in our mission to provide the best opportunities to all students.  That said, Nick feels the District ought to augment cooperation between EC2C and similar efforts such as Y Reader, in an effort to streamline and maximize the good work they each do. It is essential, of course, for educators to work hand-in-hands with students and their families to address the needs of each child, and for all involved to be sensitive and understanding of how those respective environments shape a child’s development. It is incumbent on us all to help elevate our students to their highest potentials, and imperative that we work together to do so.

Question: Do you support the proposed $14.5 million referendum that will appear on the April 4 ballot? If so, please explain. If not, how would you balance the District’s budget going forward?

Nick understands the strain this referendum may put on many families, but he also accepts the stark realities of the district’s circumstances. It's clear the district needs the funds to sustain operations, which is precisely why Nick believes that the discussion should refocus on bringing forth ideas of how to best utilize the potential increase in revenue. By engaging the community in our vision for the future, the district can raise awareness and demonstrate what educational possibilities could be unlocked with the gains. It’s incumbent on the district to effectively communicate the need for revenue and how such funds would be distributed, and it's incumbent on the community to heed the call to support our education system. Nick aims to thoughtfully apply these new monies toward closing the student achievement gap through technological integration and equitable opportunities, while holding the district accountable and providing appropriate oversight for these important efforts.

                             ……………………………………………………………………………….

 

 

Anya Tanyavutti (Running Unopposed for a Two-Year Term)



Thumbnail sketch:
B.A., Elementary Education, M. Ed., Socio-Cultural Studies and Educational Thought, Western Michigan University; Fulbright Scholar, 2003, Senegal, West Africa, as part of a curriculum development team. Employment: Small-business owner. Current member of District 65 School Board, running for two-year term. Previous employment: 15 years’ experience as teacher and head of a nonprofit Community School program in Chicago; managing youth development programs, teaching at the elementary level, and offering strategic planning consultation.  

Civic activities: Member, Navigating Real Life Diversity planning; Co-chair, Chicago Volunteer Doulas Board of Directors. Lived in District nearly five years; mother of two not- at-elementary-school-aged children.

Question: What are your key attributes that qualify you for a position on the District 65 School Board?

In me, you’ll find a strategic, inclusive, solutions-oriented leader with 15 years of proven experience and commitment to education.  You’ll find someone who believes in the power of collaboration.  Someone who’s ready to tackle problems, big and small, and seeks to do so in a responsive and informed way, understanding the value of both listening and acting for our greater good.  Together, we can do the necessary work in a way that fortifies the Evanston that we believe in.  One that ensures excellence for every child.  

Question: What would be your top three priorities as a School Board member? What would you do to advance your priorities?

Maintaining high academic standards and rigor for our children to become fully-engaged global citizens, it’s key that we equip them with the tools they’ll need to participate with the world.

 - Working to build fiscal stability and sustainability: District 65 faces revenue and expenditure challenges that require a strategic response.  As an engaged community with a transparent process, we can plan for a fiscally responsible and stable future while prioritizing what we value most—high quality education for every child.

- Working to ensure a culture and climate of inclusivity: L
ong-term success is closely tied to both academic and social-emotional well-being. District 65 need to continue to engage with commitment and urgency to making strides in this area—emphasizing restorative justice, working to build inclusive school climates, exploring data that both acknowledges disparities in achievement and receipt of disciplinary infractions, as well as prioritizing professional development around culturally relevant instructional practices and curriculum.

Question: Describe one or two specific contributions you would make to enhance the achievement and critical thinking skills of students at all levels of achievement.

A high quality and rigorous education is one that educates the whole child.  Comprehensive research has shown that academic achievement alone is not a dependable predictor of later life success.  Executive functioning skills, social and emotional health, resiliency, sense of belonging, and community are vital as well.

The District must meet these needs for all the children to whom it provides an education.  Instructional strategies such as project-based learning, learner guided workshops and or centers, and integrated subject teaching are just a few that allow for that.   Our children’s academic and social and emotional skills are shaped by their individual  and collective experiences and the communal environment we provide in their schools. It is key that we integrate that value into our work. When one child suffers, they all suffer.  When one child succeeds, they all succeed.

Question: Is the District moving in the right direction and doing enough to address issues of equity and disparities in achievement between different demographic groups? Identify one or two things you think the District is doing right and one or two things you think the District should be doing that it is not currently doing?

District 65 has begun to address issues of equity and disparity -- it has developed an equity statement and is offering optional professional development around culturally relevant instructional practices and curriculum.  However, I think District 65 can do more.

Research has shown that the achievement gap is attributed to how the institution is operating, and not to the individuals themselves.  

To change this, we need to 1.) adopt a district-wide professional learning framework implemented from the board on down (several of our neighboring districts in the surrounding area have already done this);  2.) implement an equity assessment tool to use in reviewing our policies, practices, and proposals; and 3.) ensure that our efforts are district-wide and strategically-aligned from top to bottom.  

When we don’t serve our all children well, everyone suffers.  What does it say about our school climate when we don’t acknowledge and integrate the racial, ethnic, gendered, socio-economic, documentation status, and religious identities of all our children?  …

Question: Do you support the District’s five-year strategic plan? Is the District moving in the right direction with the plan? If so, briefly explain why. If you think it should be doing things differently, identify one or two things it should be doing differently?

I fully support the District’s strategic plan as a living document informing our work.  I’m proud of the District’s five-year strategic plan, which is one of two parts of an overall strategic approach, that also includes the equity strategy.  It is a plan that I think is worth pursuing with commitment and urgency.

I want to continue operating with transparency to make sure we as an institution continue to utilize our resources and attention as efficiently and morally as possible.  The voices of our community are vitally important to this process -- yours and mine.

Question: How essential are student, parent and school partnerships, and what is needed to make them successful?  What role should District 65 play in the Cradle to Career initiative?

Education is a community process, and schools should represent our highest and most inclusive values.  I believe in the expertise and commitment inherently embedded in our schools via our passionate and dedicated District 65 teachers, staff, and administrators.  Additionally, caregivers, parents and guardians are children’s first and most important teacher, and, as such, educating the whole child requires an engaged and trusting partnership between family, community, and school. I wholeheartedly believe in the saying “People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”  Meaningful relationships are built on listening, mutual empathy, and trust.  Giving our schools the time, space, support, and capacity to invest in developing and maintaining relationships in parity with emphasis on academic performance is key.  Cradle to Career is a great asset to these efforts due to the effort to coalesce and strategically align initiatives throughout the city.

Question: Do you support the proposed $14.5 million referendum that will appear on the April 4 ballot? If so, please explain. If not, how would you balance the District’s budget going forward?

As current board member I am allowed to inform, but not advocate for or against the referendum.  What I can say is that I voted “yes” to place the proposed $14.5 million referendum on the ballot.  A great deal of data was provided to the board that demonstrated our District’s structural deficit.  The referendum is a valid option for its correction and if it does not pass there will be undesirable consequences that many would hope to avoid.

I also believe that If we wish to be the kind of city that we so dearly pride ourselves in being -- inclusive, diverse, ambitious -- then we must maintain, grow, and strengthen the things that have been working in our school systems, and tend to what hasn’t.  This means building capacity to educate our students equitably and moving forward with both our District’s strategic plan and equity strategy and planning for how to maintain our core responsibilities to students and families whether the referendum is funded or not.   

 



Related Links:
• Evanston/Skokie PTA Council: Information re District 65 School Board Candidatates





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