Margaret Lurie, a veteran member of the District 202 School Board, was bid farewell by Evanston Township High School administrators, fellow Board members and the mayor when she retired at the end of this term after 20 years of service. District records dating back to 1953 show Ms. Lurie had the second-longest tenure on the Board – after Daniel Phillips, who served for 25 years.
The farewell to Ms. Lurie took place over the course of two Board meetings, March 23 and April 20. At the later meeting, Board members Missy Fleming, who retired after one term, and student representative Adam Newman also received the acknowledgement of their peers.
At the March 23 Board meeting, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon reviewed the various initiatives and accomplishments of the School Board during Ms. Lurie’s tenure. Those included the establishment of the School Improvement Team, the System of Supports and the school-based health center. He also cited cooperative programs with Northwestern University and Oakton Community College, as well as an increased number of vocational education and Advanced Placement classes at the high school.
“We saw . . . an increase in the math graduation requirement from two years to three years,” Dr. Witherspoon continued, “and physical education [grades] became part of the GPA.” In addition, he said, the school has addressed “in a very concerted way, the academic achievement gap … and has dealt with the No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB] and NCLB sanctions.”
During Ms. Lurie’s tenure the District has “balanced the budget. The Board has made difficult decisions, sometimes having to make cuts, sometimes having to add fees,” said Dr. Witherspoon.
Ms. Lurie was a member of the School Boards that hired Dr. Witherspoon and his predecessor, Dr. Allan Alson.
Dr. Witherspoon also announced that Ms. Lurie’s friends had donated money for a portrait of her to be painted and hung beside the one of Mr. Phillips already in the Board meeting room. He said any future Board members who serve for more than 20 years will also be eligible to have a portrait donated in their honor.
Although Ms. Lurie said her initial reaction to the portrait was that it was “unnecessary,” she added, “but then I thought that I’d kind of like to be there to watch what’s going on. I hope that my grandchildren will come to this school, and they can look up and see me and I can ask them if they’ve done their homework.
“It’s been a real honor and a privilege to serve on this Board,” said Ms. Lurie. “I’ve always felt that this was the most important institution in Evanston. It’s the place where every diverse aspect of Evanston . . . comes together . . . pretty successfully. We’re always working on it.”
Ms. Lurie said former School Board member Carol Mullins told her when she was first elected to the Board that “the most important thing the Board does is to hire a Superintendent. I really feel that the process with Dr. Alson, and you, Eric, … was something I can stake my reputation on. … In addition I’ve been in awe of the ability of this Board to reach consensus. We disagree very civilly. We have respect for each other. It’s a real model of how a board should operate.
“We’re not done yet. We’re under restructuring, we’ve got this really grim economic climate and we haven’t closed the gap. … But we’re a lot closer to making this into a great school for all kids.
“I feel like I’m leaving ETHS in good hands. … There’s a wonderful, collaborative Board, and we have an amazing, energetic, visionary Superintendent. I’m going to miss it, but I’m confident that the same intelligence and persistence and optimism that I’ve seen for the last 20 years are going to continue.”
On April 20 the newly elected mayor, Elizabeth Tisdahl, spoke in Ms. Lurie’s honor. Ms. Tisdahl served on the School Board with Ms. Lurie from 1989 to 2001.
“When I told the City Council that I had to leave the meeting to come over here, everyone thought there was no more important place for me to be, because your contributions to our community are simply outstanding and unique,” said Ms. Tisdahl. She recalled that when Ms. Lurie spoke on Ms. Tisdahl’s behalf during the mayoral campaign, “Everything you said I’d done, you’d helped me do.
“You and I fought for the school-based health center, which has saved lives of students, when it was not so popular universally,” Ms. Tisdahl recalled. She also cited Ms. Lurie’s involvement with the hiring of two superintendents, “for which we are, in this community, very grateful.”
Ms. Lurie’s colleagues on the School Board commended her for her intelligence, her leadership and her civility.
“I always felt I could express my feelings to her, whatever they may be, and we could still continue with a very good working relationship,” said Board member Mary Wilkerson. “I learned from her what it was to be a good Board member.”
President Rachel Hayman recalled that Ms. Lurie patiently “tolerated new Board members. . . . [her] institutional memory will be very much missed.”
“You taught me that you can overcome differences of opinion and come out on the other side and still respect one another,” said Board member Martha Burns. “I’ve learned from that and grown from that.”
Board members recognized Ms. Fleming, who is retiring after one term because of job responsibilities, for the Board retreats she arranged and her “scientific approach to reviewing reports.”
They commended Mr. Newman, who as student representative serves only one year, for his serious approach to issues and his advocacy for and organizing of students.