On May 6, the outgoing District 202 School Board bid farewell to retiring Board members Martha Burns, Deborah Graham and Rachel Hayman and adjourned sine die – that is, without another date set. The new Board reconstituted immediately afterward with Jonathan Baum, Scott Rochelle, Mark Metz and new members William Geiger, Doug Holt, Pat Savage-Williams and re-elected Board member Gretchen Livingston. By unanimous vote, Ms. Livingston was elected president; Mr. Metz, vice president; District 202 Chief Financial Officer William Stafford, secretary; and District 202 Business Manager Mary Rodino, treasurer.
Tributes to Outgoing Board Members
Board members Mr. Metz, Ms. Livingston, Jonathan Baum and Scott Rochelle thanked Ms. Burns, Ms. Graham and Ms. Hayman for their work on the Board and in the community.
Mr. Metz said, “Martha, you served on the Board for 12 years. You brought a great perspective and fearlessness – you were always willing to speak your truth when it was difficult. … Rachel, you served for eight years with steadfastness in providing quiet, consistent leadership. You have an overwhelming commitment to the students in this school. … Deborah, you served for four years. No one on this Board could out-work you. [You brought] your good faith to this Board. You always acted in good faith, doing what you thought was right.”
Ms. Livingston thanked the three for their years of public service, both to the Board and to the community. “Martha, I have always admired your passion and your work to support students in Evanston, especially whose voices we did not always hear. … Rachel, you [felt the] need to drive down the number of student suspensions and [you had] a strong desire to include all students at Evanston Township High School. … Deborah, you deserve credit for serving through four not-always-easy years. You have a deep connection to ETHS, and your heart was always in the right place.”
Mr. Baum said, “You all have a passion for education, and each of you was always motivated by what’s best for students.”
Mr. Rochelle said, “It’s been an honor to serve with you, to learn from you. I think there is strength in differences.”
Several community members spoke, honoring the three outgoing members.
Remarks From Outgoing Board Members
Ms. Graham, Ms. Burns and Ms. Hayman also spoke.
“I wish the new Board members well,” said Ms. Graham. “You need to implement differentiated instruction and to balance the commitment to equity with the commitment to excellence.”
Ms. Burns thanked “God, for the opportunity he gave me to participate in the decision about this high school. I would like to thank the community for allowing me to serve. I thank Dr. Allan Alson [the previous ETHS superintendent], and I thank [former District 202 Board member] Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who gave me her seat.”
Ms. Burns read the resolution, which she said she had also read in February, in which ETHS proclaimed that month dedicated to black history.
“It is important that we understand that the history of slavery still affects our country today. … A lot of people are still have-nots, and we have the obligation to level the playing field. … The oppression that has taken place in America affects everyone in this room. It is very important to eradicate the damage. Education is one of the major socializing institutions in this country,” said Ms. Burns.
Ms. Hayman thanked “the staff for what they do, day in and day out, for the students of this school.” She thanked Superintendent Eric Witherspoon for the changes he had implemented. “We have a more student-centered culture; we have made some strides in a harsh discipline system with peer counseling and restorative justice. The building is more welcoming; there are more student supports and a balanced budget. We spend our money in a way that reflects our values. … The most important change has been the change in our minds. Dr. Witherspoon led the way to equity.”
Ms. Hayman added, “I don’t believe this is a perfect place, but I believe it is a better place and [that] it will continue to get better. I hope the new Board will keep [the idea of] equity front and center.” She welcomed the new members, thanked them for their commitment to public service and said, “The Board experience will not be what you expect it to be. It will be enormously enriching and enormously challenging.”