District 202 School Board members, administration and staff paid tribute to outgoing Board members Jane Colleton and Mary Wilkerson, who had a combined tenure of 32 years. They also bid adieu to student Board member Joel Michael-Schwartz, who finished his year of service at the May 2 School Board meeting.
Fellow Board members and administrators commented on Ms. Colleton’s and Ms. Wilkerson’s long years of commitment to the community and the Board.
“These are two people who really and truly care about students – that we serve the needs of all students,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. “These are people of courage to step forward to do what they know is right. Until we do that, we haven’t realized our fullest potential.”
Teachers Council president William Farmer noted their “thoughtful approach to making policy decisions” and expressed his appreciation for Ms. Wilkerson’s oft-repeated request to “get to the skinny” on a given matter.
“I have a great deal of admiration and respect for you both,” said incoming Board president Mark Metz. He commended Ms. Colleton for her “wisdom and passion for students” and Ms. Wilkerson for her “steadfast drive to do what’s right.”
Outgoing Board president Rachel Hayman remarked on Ms. Wilkerson’s “concern for those students who don’t have advocates of their own … [It is] largely because of you that we have a well-being goal.” Ms. Hayman said that it would be “hard to imagine” Ms. Colleton’s “range of commitment” and pointed out that Ms. Colleton had served with three different superintendents.
“Leaving the Board is bittersweet,” said Ms. Wilkerson. “Thank all of you for your kind remarks. … It’s been a rewarding and mostly enjoyable experience. The saddest days are when we have to expel students from the school. … Hopefully, I’ve been able to make a contribution.” Ms. Wilkerson said that she will continue to advocate for youth in other volunteer activities.
“My husband and I have been part of the Evanston community since 1975,” said Ms. Colleton. “Over the years I have served in many capacities. … I have tried to serve with actions, not words. It is not my place to tell the Board where it should go … but at the same time I urge you to stay the course in the difficult cause of equity for all children.”
Board members also had fond words for Joel Michael-Schwartz, who said he will attend Goucher College in the fall.
“I appreciate your service,” said Deborah Graham. “You’ve been very honest and pungent in your remarks … challenged and enlightened us and made us think.”
Ms. Hayman said, “You bring us back to what we’re really about – and you’re fearless.”
Martha Burns brought some levity to the tribute by first commenting that Mr. Michael-Schwartz was “such a serious young person” and then concluding, “I’d like to see you at a party.”