Anya Tanyavutti, a member of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board since 2016 and former president of the board, announced her resignation, effective immediately, at the board’s regular meeting held Monday night.
Tanyavutti was the first Black woman to be school board president in District 65. She first joined the board six years ago with the goal of advocating for a fair and equitable education and a district that does not tolerate racism in any form, she said.
In making her resignation announcement, Tanyavutti shared the story of how she and her husband moved to Evanston hoping to find a diverse and welcoming community, but she said she discovered a different reality when her 2-year-old daughter heard racist comments at daycare. Tanyavutti said that experience motivated her to get involved in the school district and push for better treatment and opportunities for Black and Brown kids in Evanston.
Tanyavutti said that during her term on the school board the district has narrowed the gap in opportunities between marginalized students and higher-income white students, and she singled out the leadership of Superintendent Devon Horton for praise. Over the last several years, District 65 has instituted a Latinx Heritage Month curriculum, a Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action and a LGBTQ+ Equity Month, Tanyavutti said.
But she also mentioned that she and other board members have been attacked by some sections of the community for their commitment to equity and antiracism.
“There are people who will fix themselves and their resources to antagonize, block and harm progress,” Tanyavutti said. “These folks have gone to all lengths – including lies, media attacks, lynch mob-like activities, undemocratic behaviors – to stop progress for our children’s human rights.”
Despite those challenges, she also concluded that she knows her fellow board members will ensure that “District 65 belongs to all of us.”
Board members, District 65 staff and people in the crowd at the meeting gave Tanyavutti a standing ovation after she made her resignation announcement.
Tanyavutti was part of the final field of seven candidates who were vying for a mayoral appointment to a vacant Second Ward City Council seat earlier this month. That post ultimately went to Krissie Harris, who joined the council last week.
Tanyavutti said she will soon be transitioning to a new job in the area of youth development and focusing more time on her own writing projects.
“You are the perfect board member,” current school board President Sergio Hernandez told Tanyavutti. “In your story, you talk about being a parent, and having your child witness, at such a young age, the injustice that many of us who have grown up as people of color have experienced. And you went ahead and acted on it, and many of us aren’t able to or are too busy or struggling, or life is just too hard to do what we’re doing here on a monthly basis trying to make a change, but you were able to find the time and the strength.”
Moving forward, the board will have 60 days to appoint a replacement to fill Tanyavutti’s seat until the April 2023 elections. Former board Vice President Marquise Weatherspoon also resigned in August, and the board filled her seat on Monday night by appointing Tracy Olasimbo, Family Engagement Coordinator at the Evanston Public Library.
As part of that process, the board solicited applications from community members for the vacancy left by Weatherspoon and reviewed those applications during closed sessions last week before making its decision.
Click here for more coverage of Monday night’s District 65 board meeting.