On April 22 the District 65 School Board voted 6-0 to approve Marlene Aponte-Mathews as the next principal of Dawes Elementary School. Ms. Aponte-Mathews will officially begin in her new role on July 1.

Ms. Aponte-Mathews has 17 years of educational experience, including as a bilingual (Spanish and English) classroom teacher, a reading and math interventionist, an instructional specialist, a resident principal and, most recently, as the Director of Instructional Coaching for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from the College of Staten Island, and is pursuing her Doctorate in Urban Educational Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

In a prepared statement, the District said Ms. Aponte-Mathews “has extensive experience as an instructional coach for teachers and on fostering academic growth for all students. She is committed to maintaining a welcoming and supportive learning environment with a focus on equity, examining institutional bias, and to preserving and celebrating students’ identities through culturally relevant and responsive instruction.”

“I am pleased to welcome Mrs. Aponte-Mathews to Dawes Elementary and the District 65 team,” said Superintendent Paul Goren. “She is a veteran educator and a tremendous leader. I am confident in her ability to connect with and engage the community in the important work that lies ahead in both the short- and long-term. Mrs. Aponte-Mathews has shared her excitement to hit the ground running – taking an active part in transition planning and immediately getting to know Dawes staff, students, and families.”

The District said it worked with a diverse group of teachers, educational support staff, parents/guardians, and administrators to develop a leadership profile that identified the skills and attributes desired for the next Dawes principal, that it invited staff and families to attend a community forum to meet the candidates being considered for school principal, and that each candidate met with the school interview committee comprised of teachers, parents/guardians and administrators.

But before the Board voted to approve the appointment of Ms. Aponte-Mathews, seven Dawes parents, including the two co-presidents of Dawes PTA, complained about the process in the public comment section of the April 22 Board meeting.

After the Board’s vote, Ms. Aponte-Mathews said, “I am in awe of the strength in the community that I have experienced in this process. It is clear to me that everyone from parents, teachers, and District leaders are deeply committed to the success of students at Dawes. This is one of the most important reasons that I am deeply honored, incredibly honored to join this community, for I believe there is strength in unity and a shared purpose.

“I am passionate about building relationships and getting to know your students, staff and parents as we move forward.”

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...