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To kick off the latest Evanston Township High School District 202 School Board meeting Monday night, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon and current board members unveiled a portrait of Jane Colleton, who in 2011 became just the third person ever to serve on the School Board for 20 years. Colleton has lived in Evanston with her husband Don and her children for over 50 years, and she also worked as an educator and administrator at the Chiaravalle Montessori school in Evanston.
“Jane’s faithfulness to this community and to Evanston Township High School and its students of this school for literally the decades she was here, but also making decisions for those who would come for generations to follow, was never in doubt,” Witherspoon said Oct. 11 in front of a crowd of Colleton’s family, friends and former colleagues. “Jane was committed to this school, committed to the students, committed to what the school needed to be and what she wanted the vision of the school to become, and she was a strong and faithful board member in that.”
Late in her tenure on the board, Colleton helped pioneer the controversial “detracking” of ETHS students that ended the testing of Evanston eighth-graders to sort them into honors courses. During Monday night’s board meeting, Witherspoon praised Colleton for her dedication to racial equity through detracking.
“During my tenure, board members were charged with addressing disparity in learning caused by racism and social injustice,” Colleton said in her remarks after the portrait unveiling. “We did our darndest to do just that, among other things by detracking the school’s curriculum. I don’t say that this was easy or without resistance. I know it was, and it remains, a complex challenge, but we made a good start.”
Reflecting on Witherspoon’s impending retirement at the end of this academic year, Colleton also urged board members to consider his personality and leadership qualities when launching the search for his successor. His hallmark kindness and commitment to encouraging his students should remain a high priority in the quest for his replacement, she said.
“He is a kind man 24/7,” Colleton said of Witherspoon. “In his every encounter with students, parents, the public and all levels of staff, he is courteous. He has genuine, not just expedient, concern for others.”