At the June 8 District 65 School Board meeting, the Board unanimously elected Anya Tanyavutti to the position of Board President and Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan to serve as Board Vice-President.

Joey Hailpern was appointed to serve as Chair of the Board’s Finance Committee, and Soo La Kim and Suni Kartha were appointed as members.

Rebeca Mendoza was appointed as Chair of the Board’s Policy Committee and Ms. Lindsay-Ryan and Sergio Hernandez were appointed as members.

Following the election of officers, Ms. Tanyavutti gave each member of the School Board an opportunity to list what they thought should be the Board’s priorities for the coming school year. It is anticipated that their comments will be taken into account in developing the Board’s planning calendar.

The planning calendar lists on a broad basis what subjects the Board will discuss, what things the Board will take action on, and what reports will be provided to the Board for informational purposes at each regular Board meeting in the year starting July 1, 2020 and ending June 30, 2021.

The priorities listed include developing a new five-year strategic plan, addressing the District’s projected structural deficits, providing regular progress reports on remote learning, report on whether or not accelerated math learning will continue, how to start restorative healing in light of the impact of the pandemic, what the District needs to do to help parents with remote learning, how to address single-strands of TWI, examine what cultural changes the District needs to make, what needs to be done following the special education report, early childhood education, redistricting, and more.

Joey Hailpern

Mr. Hailpern led off. “My biggest priority, as Dr. Horton comes on Board, is our strategic plan has reached its end of term. It’s time to figure out a process how we’re going to recommit to a near term vision and what the next five years is going to look like.” He said he would like the Board to discuss “how we’re going to work together to take Dr. Horton’s vision for the District and our governance and sow the seeds for a successful long term future.”

Mr. Hailpern pointed out that the District’s operating expenses are expected to exceed its operating revenues in FY’21. “We are living beyond our means,” he said. “I think by December we need to have a conversation about what the fiscal needs are moving forward and if changes need to be made, what they are, so we can have community involvement.” He said he thought the Board needed to reach a decision on this “well before spring.”

He added that the administration should gather input from educators three or four times next year and determine how educators feel about working in the District, and use that information to promote the positive things that are happening, and make changes to address the concerns.

Suni Kartha

Ms. Kartha said, “We know the upcoming year is going to be a non-traditional school year and is probably going to have some remote learning.” She suggested that the Board build in time to monitor how remote learning is going and what adjustments are being made to improve it. She said it is important for the Board to have this information, but it was also important to be able to report how remote learning is going to the community.

Ms. Kartha added that administrators should give a report on whether math acceleration will continue or not continue. She said there should be a public discussion on this issue, cautioning that it is an administrative decision, not a Board decision.

Referring to the recent report on special education, she said, “We probably need to see the more intensive changes. Now that we have this data, what’s next to support our special education students.”

Ms. Kartha added that she thought the Board needed to have conversations around boundary lines – whether the District should redraw attendance-areas or maybe build a school.

Sergio Hernandez

Mr. Hernandez said, “I want to have a robust discussion around the impact of Covid on families and to start restorative healing.” He said a lot of people have lost jobs and are in crisis and, “We have to consider how it impacts our students’ learning.”

Mr. Hernandez said the District needs to make sure that there are supports for parents that are accessible, and there are progress reports showing whether families are receiving supports to help improve their child’s learning.

Rebeca Mendoza

Ms. Mendoza said, “I’m really concerned about recovery. I think a lot of our conversations have to be centered around a community that’s recovering from a pandemic. Conversations around family and community engagement, I think, are going to be central to a lot of the work we’re going to be doing this coming year.

“I would love to see more around parent education to ensure that we’re giving parents and community members all the tools to understand the changes taking place and how to best support students.”

She said there was room to improve LGBTQ week and the Black Lives Matters week. She added the Board should prioritize early childhood education, and consider redistricting specific to the TWI program, and set up Bessie Rhodes for success in coming years.

She added that she would like administrators to propose a way to measure students’ and educators’ social and emotional learning.

Soo La Kim

“Along with our strategic planning, I want to talk with Dr. Horton about what are the cultural changes we need to make as a District and how can we foster a culture of continuous improvement.”

She added, “As we look ahead to this year of recovery, how do we bring students back with trauma-informed practices in mind. What are ways that students can touch base with the teachers and friends they left so abruptly this year and how can they reconnect with those relationships.

“The transition back is not going to be like the flip of a switch. It’s going to be incremental. It’s going to be in fits and starts, and it’s going to be still an unusual year. So how do we prepare them for that?”

Board Vice President Biz Lindsay-Ryan

Mr. Lindsay-Ryan said, “I want to emphasize how we need to engage families. We need to capitalize on ways to reach out to families.

“I would like to see us continue to improve in the racial disparity in discipline, and I would like us to really focus on the report we got on special education.” She added, “I don’t’ think we’ll improve on either of those situations without seriously thinking about redistricting and thinking about resource allocation and making sure that all of our students have access to what they need.”

Board President Anya Tanyavutti

Ms. Tanyavutti said, “I would be interested in us having a discussion about bi-lingual education and our TWI programs, not just Bessie Rhodes, but also the discussion that we’ve not had extensively about the single stand TWI programs and how we’ll address that.”

She said she would also like to consider early childhood programs, and would like to get an update on “how our schools have been doing with the SRO [School Resource Officer] decisions that we made.”

She also said mentioned redistricting, a strategic plan, a discussion about the District’s financial situation, and the special education report. She said she would like to include the community in those discussions.

It is anticipated that Ms. Tanyavutti will prepare a Board planning calendar with Dr. Horton and bring it back to the Board for approval.

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...