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The thumbnail sketch was compiled by Mary Helt Gavin from information provided by the candidate. Answers to the questions are in the candidate’s own words.
Thumbnail Sketch: Education: Studied fine arts at Parsons School of Design, finance at the City College of New York, French at the New School University; working toward a degree in psychology, also at the New School University. Employment: Independent Financial and Business Consultant, Translator, and Interpreter for more than 15 years; Licensed Stockbroker in New York City and Toronto, Canada; CEO of a STEAM nonprofit, Majestic Reign; President of a grassroots organization, Our Village the Black Evanstonian. Evanston Ties: Fifth generation of Evanston family; married and mother of two ETHS students; cousins in District 65 schools. Volunteer/Civic activties: Member of Civic and Political Engagement and Technology and Marketing Committees NAACP Evanston Chapter; member of Alliance Française du Northshore; member of the Congolese Community of Chicago; works with refugee and immigrant families.
Top Three Priorities and Reasons for Them
My top priorities will be the academic achievement gap of Black and brown students, proper support and advocacy for SPED families and addressing the lack of support for emerging English-language learners.
Two Recent Board Positives
Over the past two years the current board has begun the pertinent conversation on prioritizing equity, inclusion and diversity and have attempted to address the lack of diversity in the districts teaching staff.
Addressing the 5Essentials
Unfortunately, the results of the 5Essentials survey conducted in 2020 has proven that much work is needed to make a positive impact on our students and our district 65 community.
There continues to be an ongoing academic achievement gap year over year and the answer has been to lower the benchmark as opposed to addressing the core issues and providing support where needed, whether it is tutoring for those that need academic support or physical and mental health services for those that are dealing with food insecurity, trauma, substance abuse and/or displacement for immigrant and refugee families.
To make sure that all children succeed, effective leaders and collaborative teachers are necessary. As it stands, the root issues are not being addressed for those children most effected, the academic achievement gap has increased, and children and parents are not receiving adequate support to reach their academic goals.
An Effective Leader is one who can identify where there is lack and who puts in place a plan for all educators to engage with their students and parents/guardians in a manner that is supportive yet focused on concrete goals.
Collaborative Teachers are ones who can gauge each child’s level of understanding, any challenges they might have, and each child’s shortcomings, so that they can work together to make sure each child succeeds, whether it is through tutoring, community outreach for support services that are not provided by the district or simply engaging parents/guardians.
Addressing the Joint Literacy Goal
The joint literacy level for Black and brown students has been shown to be an issue of English comprehension for decades. To address this issue proper language support is necessary.
Unbeknownst to many, even some Black children who are born in the United States need language support, due to dialectal difference, as well as those who come from households where there are multiple languages spoken, in my household alone there are five languages spoken daily.
Sadly, there are also many Spanish speaking students who are excluded when it comes to identifying dialectal and overall linguistic differences in the Spanish that is spoken in some households. The Spanish-speaking community in Evanston is not just Mexican, in fact some of the first Spanish speaking families in Evanston were Afro-LatinX from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama and Belize.
The lack of understanding that our Black and brown community is highly diverse both linguistically and culturally has exacerbated the academic achievement gap and has caused many of our children who have multiple intersectionality’s to be left behind.
To address the academic achievement gap, the district needs educators who are equipped to deal with the diverse student body and that does not mean simply hiring educators of color; what it means is training and hiring educators who are equipped to deal with intersectionality.
What does that mean? We need more educators who understand that there is no such thing as flat Blackness and that we are all unique in our identities and worthy of recognition. We need more Black, brown, Asian, male and LGBTQIA educators, yes, but we must also be cognizant that even those most marginalized at times harbor their own biases, so we need educators and leaders that are equipped with the understanding that their personal identity is not enough, but their understanding and desire to value the identities of others and create safe spaces for all children to thrive is what the district is in dire need of!