Within the past week my inbox has been filled with endorsement emails from friends and acquaintances alike sharing who they support for the District 202 campaign. Some speak to the heart of why this election matters in ways that make me proud to live in Evanston. Disturbing however is hearing from those who have inappropriately used their position within our community to misrepresent candidates in ways that will be damaging to the functioning of the new Board when they convene and discredits the credibility of those who have chosen to dedicate their time and resources to help our children get the education they deserve. I am saddened that such campaigning denigrates the level of discourse that we should demand in our local elections.

The heart of this debate focuses on the recent restructuring of the freshman humanities and biology classes. The conversation of race is being unfairly thrust into the forefront and ultimately has become a litmus test in determining whether a candidate is qualified to serve. This strategy diverts the conversation away from where it needs to focus, namely an articulation of strategies which will ultimately strengthen our educational system for all students. This became ever so apparent at a recent forum when candidates were asked about their personal interactions with Blacks and Latinos. It became an opportunity to name drop, and only a few candidates truly spoke to what I believe was the intent of the question – do the candidates truly understand and have the fortitude to get to the heart of what needs to be addressed in a manner that is both honest and transformative.

While a few candidates meet these criteria, I want to particularly and publicly support Gretchen Livingston who served on the Board when they voted to move forward with the freshman humanities restructuring. Not only did she support this decision, but she exercised her leadership to ensure that there was a planned evaluation put in place to ensure that the end result would be the best outcome. And because she is the incumbent, supporters of other candidates somehow feel entitled to offer unsubstantiated claims that she did not do enough to protect those students who are considered gifted while in the same breath have made assumptions that are downright wrong and disrespectful. Why must campaigning stoop to this level and degrade the entire process?

I have always been impressed with Gretchen’s intelligence, the ways in which she thinks strategically, and her ability to ask the serious questions that get to the crux of the matter. She has a vast wealth of experience that she brings to the table (evident on her website), and her commitment to our community is unwavering.

Campaigns are rarely pleasant, but as you decide who you will vote for on April 9th, make sure that you are basing your decision on known facts rather than the toxic words of those vocal few who could irresponsibly impact the outcome.

– Bekki Harris Kaplan