Welcome back! In District 65, the start of the new school year is nearly upon us and we are overjoyed at the thought of re-engaging with our students after what was certainly an unusual, and for some, a very challenging summer. Our first day of Remote Learning for kindergarten through eighth grade students is Thursday, August 27. The first day for students enrolled in Preschool for All and Early Childhood Special Education Programs is August 31 and September 2 for students in Head Start.

While I couldn’t have predicted that my first few months in my new role as Superintendent would be filled with conversations and planning on how to navigate our schools through a global pandemic, here we are! I am honored to have been selected by our amazing School Board to serve such a strong community as Evanston/Skokie. I am looking forward to working on the behalf of ALL students. 

The work that lies ahead is significant and I could not be more proud to be working alongside the D65 team. As a new resident of Evanston, I am so grateful that my children will have the opportunity to learn from and grow with such incredible educators and to be a part of such a tremendous community. Over the past few months, I have seen staff members from various roles across the district roll their sleeves up and dive into the work of reimagining our schools in the wake of a pandemic. This includes strengthening our remote learning pathway and helping to ensure a safe and productive working and learning environment for our students and staff. As evidenced across the nation, this is not always an easy feat. And, not once has anyone on our team thrown their hands up and say we can’t get it done. They know what is at stake. We all know what is at stake for our children. 

What I continue to hear is a resounding message, an unwavering desire and commitment to support our students who have been hit hardest by the closures in the spring and who continue to be deeply impacted by COVID-19. The inequities within our community and schools is now only more pronounced. We know that our children are virtually returning to us later this week in very different places, both academically and emotionally. And, I could not be more proud to be a part of a team – from our school board to our school-based staff – that continues to put equity at the forefront of their decisions and actions! There is nothing that can waiver or stray this dedicated group of individuals. Our collective focus remains – breaking down the systemic barriers that exist within our system and reimagine our schools in a way that truly honors the unique strengths of every child, creates endless opportunity for our most vulnerable communities, and improves academic outcomes for Black and LatinX students to the high levels we know that they are capable of achieving. My team hears me say this often, students do not fail, the systems that we as adults create fail our students! We must change this system!

The Evanston/Skokie community continues to be remarkable during my time of transition. We have fought the COVID-19 pandemic hand-in-hand. We continue to fight, together, the ongoing pandemic of racism and systemic oppression against communities of color. There are so many organizations that I have to continue to thank for their ongoing partnership with our school communities. There has been an intentional level of support for marginalized families unlike any place I’ve been. This type of support leads to my belief that our community is looking in the mirror and reflecting on how we can combat the unjust inequities that have plagued our nation. It is clear to me that racism is not welcomed in District 65 or in the Evanston/Skokie community. I have challenged our entire team, myself included, to hold each other accountable in this work and to continue to look in the mirror and reflect on what we need to change within ourselves. I look forward to partnering on this journey to make District 65 a place where change isn’t a challenge but an expectation! 

I know we are up for it. This school year will be what we collectively make of it – all of us – educators, students, families, and community partners. Our educators, and our entire team for that matter, is giving it their all. In the end while we can’t control COVID-19, we can control our actions. If we are to accomplish all of this for our students, we must remain united in our efforts and continue to have faith. In District 65, we will continue our focus on educational equity, social emotional care, and instructional excellence. We will emerge stronger than ever.

I am grateful for your continued partnership and look forward to a productive, amazing school year! Let’s go, District 65!