In an effort to inform Evanston voters about candidates for both local school boards, the RoundTable sent out a standard questionnaire to each person running for a seat on the board. Yesterday, we posted the answers we received from all District 65 candidates. Today, we are publishing all responses from Evanston Township High School candidates, which you can find in one place here.

Early voting begins at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center on Monday, March 20, and Election Day is Tuesday, April 4.

Elizabeth Rolewicz

Elizabeth Rolewicz Credit: ETHS website

Provide your educational background, occupation, recent civic/volunteer activities, time you have lived in Evanston and whether you have children attending District 202.

I have been an Evanston community member for 10 years and have two children in D65. I have been serving on the ETHS D202 school board for almost four years now, and would be honored to fill the next term as well. I am currently a stay-at-home parent, but looking to work in the local non-profit sector. I have been actively engaged in the community since moving here, in many volunteer capacities. I have been an executive member of the PTA Equity Project for four years, organized holiday gift drives for Back on Their Feet and Rice School, and I was a Girl Scout Troop leader for many years. I was a participant in Leadership Evanston and learned so much about the community through that. I have extensive training in childhood trauma, ACEs, special education, racism, educational advocacy and substance abuse through my work as a foster parent. I have completed Beyond Diversity I and II twice, and SEED anti-bias training, as well as extensive anti-racism/racial equity training through Courageous Conversations by the Pacific Education Group. I use this experience to advocate for our students, and especially our most marginalized students.

What do you see as the top three challenges facing District 202 in the next few years, and how would you address them?

Racial disparities in academic outcomes: We’ve been intentional with addressing systemic racism in the school for years, but we are not finished with the work. Racism is embedded in many systems that our students interact with outside of ETHS as well. We need to work to decrease bias that students are experiencing, and continue to approach the whole student when working to mitigate racism in the student experience. If we continue to create a culturally relevant space where students can feel seen, heard and valued, we will see improved outcomes.

Our students with IEPs: When we look at measurements such as graduation rate,
extracurricular involvement and student attendance, etc., we see that our students with IEPs fare worse than any other demographic. We need to create equity tools for our students with IEPs so that they can achieve to their highest ability. We also need to see all data disaggregated by IEP status.

Mental health crisis from the pandemic: Our students continue to struggle. The school
has hired more psychologists and social workers, but the need continues. We need to
continue to create a culture of addressing mental health and reduce the stigma of seeking help.

Name one thing that you think the current board has done well and one thing that it could have done better in the last three years and provide your reasons.

I am proud of the board’s work in hiring a new superintendent, and how we were able to engage a lot of the community in the process. We did a lot of surveys, forums and
interviews to help build the profile for what kind of superintendent the community wanted. We then invited the community to interview our candidate and we deeply considered their feedback. I feel we had a very thorough and transparent process in hiring the superintendent.

I feel the board could do a better job inquiring about and advocating for students with
disabilities. This is a demographic that is often invisible and we need to make them
visible. We are required to shine a light on these issues and compel the administration to prioritize the well being of students with disabilities.

Burnout and high turnover have hit teachers especially hard during the pandemic, and ETHS is no exception. On the 2022 Illinois 5Essentials Survey, 28% of ETHS educators, up from just 9% in 2021, said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “I usually look forward to each working day at this school.” How can the board help boost morale among teachers and create a better working experience for them so that they continue to build relationships with students year after year?

I find this data point very concerning and would like to learn more about what teachers
need in order to look forward to teaching at this school. Is it more broadly about the stress of teaching, or is it something specific to ETHS, or both? I want to make sure we are providing supports for teachers, whether it is professional development, teacher coaching, freedom and autonomy to teach or something else. I would like to hear from teachers so I can better understand why they are not enjoying their teaching.

At a recent board meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Pete Bavis presented data on student performance in math that indicated the pandemic “has had a significant impact on math in a very real way … that’s going to have a long-term impact on math instruction at the high school.” What are the solutions you see as most effective to stop this downward trend in math achievement? Do you consider the articulation between District 65 and District 202 as effective in helping reverse this trend?

We will likely see a continued impact on math scores from students as they enter the
high school because they all experienced the pandemic at some point in their educational career. We have to continue to partner with D65 to see what’s going on sequentially. I think we need to be creative in math curriculum and make it relevant and real life for students. They need to be able to engage in project based learning that is innovative and allows students to explore math concepts. I support courses like Data Science, Geometry in Construction and STEAM Design, Thinking and Innovation to bring math to life for students and allow them to engage in their own community and use data. An integrated approach to math will allow students to see themselves in math curriculum. I think ETHS can be a leader in math innovation.

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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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