Four candidates are running for four positions on the District 65 School Board. While the election is not contested, the RoundTable thought it was important for the community to know a little more about the persons who will be serving on the new Board. The RoundTable compiled a thumbnail profile of each, including education, professional experience, civic activities, etc. and asked each candidate to provide a summary of three or four of their priorities. The Vision and Priorities section of the profiles that follow is in each candidate’s own words. Candidates are presented in reverse alphabetical order.

Suni Kartha 

Thumbnail Profile: Northwestern University, B.A. (political science and English), Chicago-Kent College of Law, J.D.  Evanston resident since 1993, with the exception of a few years. Law practice has focused on various aspects of entertainment law, web site and privacy law, with a specialization in advertising and promotions law. Currently practices law part time with Information Law Group. Two children, one at Orrington and one at Unity Nursery School.

Civic Activities: Co-president of Orrington PTA (second term), improved Orrington’s website to enhance communication with families and launched a playground renovation project at Orrington; volunteer for three years in the classroom as a tutor in District 65’s Everybody Reads Fluency Program; Board of Unity Nursery School; volunteer with Chicago Ballet Arts.

Vision and Priorities:

District 65 is a high-performing, forward-thinking school district with strong public schools – this is the reason many of us chose to live in Evanston! As a member of the District 65 School Board, I will continue to build upon the District’s successes and plan to approach issues through the lens of providing high-quality, 21st-century education for every student in the District in a fiscally responsible way. My vision for the new Board includes the following:

First, continue to support inclusive classrooms. I believe an important characteristic of the 21st-century classroom is the ability to support all levels of learners and help them reach their full potential. Evidence shows that rigorous standards in a blended classroom can help all students achieve and can promote skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century, like creativity and collaboration in a diverse world. We need to continue to train our teachers in differentiated instruction and implement sufficient classroom supports to ensure its success.  We also need to continue to refine the ways in which we use technology in the classroom to more effectively personalize the learning experience.

Second, further explore the benefits of the community school model. The home-school relationship is an important one, but many of our schools struggle with outreach to parents who want to be engaged but might be reticent (for example, because of racial/ethnic or language barriers). In addition, our District, like many others in the state, must balance  the desire to provide the wrap-around services that help remove obstacles to student achievement against fiscal realities, not the least of which is the looming state pension shift. Community schools have worked for several school districts around the country to address these issues, and many more are moving towards this model.  Community schools respond to the unique needs of each school population and directly invest the community in the success of our public schools and our students. I am excited by the work the District is doing at Chute Middle School with Y.O.U. as the community partner and look forward to exploring how community schools can benefit the entire District.

Third, promote a safe, modernized neighborhood school for every student.  It is indisputable that the cost of routine maintenance plus necessary capital improvements to the District’s  school buildings (including safe entryways, ADA compliance, and upgrades to adapt to the growth of the student population and school programs) far exceeds the amount of debt service available to the District. I do not believe that the current approach of patchwork additions in response primarily to capacity concerns is a sustainable or desirable way to approach school improvement. I believe that a capital referendum, undertaken with careful evaluation of each school’s needs and thoughtful input from each community, will be necessary to make the kind of holistic improvements needed to empower the District to deliver 21st-century education to all our students.