District 65 school board President Sergio Hernandez swears in Mya Wilkins as the newest member of the board on Monday, Oct. 17. Credit: Duncan Agnew

The Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board unanimously appointed Mya Wilkins to the seat formerly held by Anya Tanyavutti during a special meeting held Monday afternoon.

The board picked Wilkins from a pool of 12 applicants who had also applied for a previous vacancy left open when former Vice President Marquise Weatherspoon resigned in August. In September, the remaining board members chose Tracy Olasimbo, the Evanston Public Library family engagement coordinator and a District 65 parent, to take Weatherspoon’s place.

Wilkins and her son, Henry, 5, read poems together at Word Salad at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in April 2022.

At that same meeting last month, Tanyavutti, a longtime representative on the board and the first Black woman to become board president, announced her resignation, effective immediately. The remaining board members then decided to use the same pool of candidates for Weatherspoon’s seat to appoint Tanyavutti’s replacement, as well.

Wilkins is the executive director of market research at JPMorgan Chase in Chicago, according to the resume she submitted as part of her application to join the board. She has worked in District 65 as a PTA Equity Project representative, and she helped create an affinity group for Black parents at Walker Elementary School called Black Students Achieve.

In her application, Wilkins identified advancing equity, hiring quality teachers and ensuring stable financial management as her top priorities for the district moving forward. She described the importance of “spending the right amount on the right things” to provide the best possible learning and working environment for students and staff.

The full District 65 school board poses for a photo after inducting Wilkins as its newest member. Pictured (from left) are Tracy Olasimbo, Joey Hailpern, Donna Wang Su, Mya Wilkins, Sergio Hernandez, Soo La Kim and Biz Lindsay-Ryan. Credit: Duncan Agnew

Wilkins also went on to say that she would take the perspectives of all community stakeholders into account when making decisions on the board, and she said it would be “almost impossible to come to the best solutions” as a school district without meeting with a broad spectrum of parents, students, teachers and residents.

The seats now taken by Wilkins and Olasimbo are still up for grabs in the next school board elections scheduled for April 2023. Both of the newly appointed representatives said in their applications that they plan to run for a permanent spot when they get the chance.

“I recognize the responsibility and impact of being a school board member. Having responsibility for the education of thousands of students is not something that I would take lightly,” Wilkins wrote. “If given the opportunity to serve, I will always keep the needs of students as the foremost consideration when deciding whether to support any initiative.”

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. The Roundtable erred in its October 17 report on the new member of the District 65 board. Anya Tanyavutti who was replaced on the Board was not the first Black woman to become Board president. Rose Johnson served as Board president in the 1990s having previously been the Board’s first vice president.