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The District 65 School Board held its first in-person meeting in more than a year at the Joseph E. Hill Administration Building tonight, May 3, wearing masks and spread out about six feet from each other.

The meeting, called the Board’s reorganization meeting, consisted of swearing in four Board members, electing officers, and honoring several members of the Board, one whose term expired and another who resigned.  

Swearing in Four Members

Board member Sergio Hernandez, acting as President Pro Tem, swore in the four people who won seats on the Board in the April 6 election. Three of the winners are incumbents:  Soo La Kim, Joseph “Joey” Hailpern, and Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan. The fourth winner is Donna Wang Su. They will each serve a four-year term on the Board beginning today, May 3, 2021.

The vote totals of each of the incumbents were substantially higher than the other five candidates who ran for a seat on the Board. The certified vote totals for each of the candidates are as follows:

Soo La Kim: 8,308

Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan: 7,592

Joseph “Joey” Hailpern: 7,024

Donna Wang Su: 6,094

Marquise Weatherspoon: 5,961

Ndona Muboyayi: 5,611

Angela Blaising: 4,798

Katie Magrino Voorhees: 4,786

Election of President and Vice-President

The new Board unanimously elected Anya Tanyavutti to serve another one-year term as President of the Board and Ms. Lindsay-Ryan to serve another one-year term as Vice President of the Board. Each ran unopposed.

“I want to note that it’s both an honor and a privilege to represent this Board,” said Ms. Tanyavutti after the vote. “You all are some of the most talented, ethical, creative policymakers that I know. I’m so grateful we serve together and excited for what we have before us.

“I see our most recent elections as a statement on the direction of this Board and administration. And we have our marching orders. We need to continue to diligently build the systems necessary as a governance body and an institution and a community to make racial equity a reality. Children and families’ outcomes and experiences in Evanston/Skokie District 65 should not be predictable by race. It will be the work of this Board to lead in such a way to build an inclusive and equitable institution to live to the highest ideals of this community for all of our children, especially the most vulnerable.”

Under Board policy, members of the Board who plan to seek the office of President or Vice President must submit a letter to the Secretary of the Board announcing their intent to seek office. The content of the letters submitted by Ms. Tanyavutti and Ms. Lindsay-Ryan are set out below.  

The Board also elected Adeela Qureshi as Secretary and Raphael Obafemi as Treasurer. Both are employees of the District.

Retiring Board Members

The second term of Board member Suni Kartha expired on May 3. Ms. Kartha served on the Board for eight years and served as President for two years.

Ms. Tanyavutti announced that Board member Rebeca Mendoza had submitted her resignation from the Board on May 3.

Members of the Board highlighted many of the things that Ms. Kartha and Ms. Mendoza had accomplished during their time on the Board, and thanked them for their dedicated service.

………………………

Statement of Intent of Anya Tanyavutti to Run for President of the Board

This letter serves as formal notification of my intent to pursue the President position of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board. I will bring to the position 4 years of previous Board leadership as Vice President and President, a Master’s degree in Education with an emphasis on Socio-Cultural Studies and Educational thought, over 19 years of experience in education, non-profit leadership, and racial equity and strategic planning consulting. Additionally, I traveled as a Fulbright Scholar to Senegal, West Africa, as part of a curriculum development team, deepening my understanding of culturally specific and historically accurate and affirming Education.

In addition to my work experience, it has been an honor and a privilege to serve as a District 65 School Board Member since October 2016. In the past several years, in partnership with Suni Kartha and now Biz Lindsay-Ryan, we have organized four board retreats resulting in newly adopted responsive board protocols and agreements, brought to vote and/or discussion several high-stakes decisions including Algebra for All (8th grade Algebra racial detracking) and Two Way Immersion dual language program expansion, the district Equity Agenda with the Strategic Plan, a phenomenal superintendent hire, and new and improved collaborative relationships with our bargaining units (including several agreements come to via interest based bargaining).

Additionally, we have led with our values and leadership commitments at the fore, during a year that challenged every single D65 stakeholder to maximum capacity and called on us leaders to bring our best selves in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic, and as the nation confronted the long time pandemic of racism and white supremacy. In the face of threats to our lives we lead with equity, collaboration, and the common good of our community at the center consistently. Lastly, I actively participate in and contributed to the board’s work in a number of ways, including sitting on the finance committee, serving as liaison to to schools and attending community meetings. These roles have entailed providing information to and learning from community stakeholders and prioritizing the growth of our district’s capacity to address factors contributing to historical and contemporary institutional marginalization.

Lastly, all of this work has been carried out, in the spirit of ethical good governance through inclusiveness and transparency. I am committed to continue to model and advocate for those values and practices in District 65. I deeply believe in the value of an inter-disciplinary board that is able to bring our full talents and perspective to the fore by challenging our thinking and pursuing informed solutions in collaboration with a wide representation of stakeholders (administration, teachers, principals, staff, parents, students, community leaders and residents alike). I am honored to serve our community and would be equally as honored to continue to serve in the role of President of this Board.

Sincerely,

Anya Tanyavutti

Statement of Intent of Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan to Run for Vice-President of the School Board

This letter serves as formal notification of my intent to continue in my role as the Vice President of the District 65 School Board. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on the Board and have been honored to serve as the Vice President for the 2020-21 school year. It is my sincere hope that I can continue on in this role. I have had the privilege to work in education for 22 years and am excited about what is ahead for our district.

After completing my Masters of Arts in Human Services and Counseling I have worked in various roles in higher education at DePaul University and Northwestern University, including serving as the Director of Programs for Northwestern University’s Women’s Center for 8 years. While all of those roles informed my perspective, nothing had a greater impact on my passion for education than the 15 years I spent on the faculty at DePaul University’s School for New Learning teaching non traditional age students. Having taught courses at DePaul on civic engagement and on being an agent of change, I understand change management on both an academic level and in its application. Supporting my students and understanding the challenges they faced on their path to college as adults was a daily lesson in understanding educational inequity and how it impacts the most marginalized in our school systems.

My proximity to witness their experiences with failed systems and institutional racism motivated me to start my own business as an equity, diversity and inclusion consultant working to dismantle systems of white supremacy in educational spaces and beyond.

In my work with D65 as a consultant for 5 years, I had the opportunity to work with a team at all 18 schools. I have experience working with our principals, I understand how our administration works. I have a clear sense of what challenges need to be addressed at the school level and what issues are district wide and require systemic transformation. I have extensive experience in multiple contexts – education, nonprofits, business – identifying root causes, communicating effectively about challenges and potential solutions, and engaging in the strategic conversations and planning necessary to eliminate obstacles while building capacity for change.

Additionally, I have been fortunate to co-lead efforts for the PTA Equity Project, a collaborative of PTAs all across Evanston/Skokie School District 65, with a mission to ensure that students in District 65 have equitable access to the important enrichments that PTAs offer, regardless of the school they attend.

During the current COVID-19 crisis, we broadened our efforts to ensuring equitable access to resources for struggling families. My involvement in this project has given me an opportunity to work with parents/caregivers at every school and learn more about their experiences and challenges. I am thrilled that our schools votes to move forward together with the adoption of PEP One Fund that will allow us to collectively problem solve moving forward.

After serving for a year as the VP of the Board during a pandemic, I believe I have even more insight into the needs of our community. This year we have all had to navigate unprecedented decisions as we were tasked with the safety of everyone in our community and a challenge to the fundamental ways schools operate. I am grateful for all of the partnerships and collaboration of so many stake holders as we all did everything we could to ensure the best possible experience for our students during unimaginable circumstances.

Despite all of the challenges presented by the pandemic, the work continued to engage in critical conversations about how we continue to strive for better outcomes for Black and Latinx students. There were many opportunities to review our data and see where we are making progress and where we are still falling short. I was happy to serve as a member of the policy committee and various other committees that support our district.

I believe our school district has serious challenges on the path to truly providing an equitable experience for all of our students and we are at a critical moment in our efforts toward equity. Moving forward we need passion, commitment, and transparency. I am grateful for my fellow board members and have been so honored to collaborate with them this past year as we endeavor to dismantle unjust systems in spite of repeated opposition and threat and the challenges of a global pandemic. I am so hopeful about what we can accomplish together. I want to be a part of transforming our schools into a place where all of our students are valued, welcomed, included, respected and equally successful and there is not racial predictability in their present or their future. I believe serving as Vice President of the Board is the best way for me to have a continued impact. I am humbled by the importance of this role and am grateful for the consideration.

Sincerely,

Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan