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.

Kristen Scotti

Kristen Scotti Credit: Kristen Scotti Campaign Facebook site

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

  • BS, psychology, Northwestern University
  • PhD, materials science and engineering, Northwestern University, exp. Apr 2023 
  • Child is a junior at ETHS 
  • Lived in Evanston ~10 years 

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

1. At the board level, student groups are effectively being erased and excluded from conversations that impact them the most. Some examples include: unhoused students not being included in any reports. Well-being and advanced coursework categories, as assessed in the Achievement Report/Year in Review, do not include data for low income students, English language learners or students on 504s/IEPs. Even when disabled student data are included, they are often not discussed, despite the fact that our data show we are failing to address the needs of these students. We tout equity work related to trans, gender-expansive and non-binary students while these students routinely encounter restroom access issues for which they are told to “self-advocate” against; we lack safeguards in our policies and administrative procedures to protect students who need gender support plans but are unable to secure parent/guardian support. We fail to consistently pair equity work with an intersectional lens; thus, we do not center our most marginalized students in this work. We need to report data for all marginalized groups and disaggregate within those groups, at minimum, by race. With that, we can determine where policy changes are needed and targeted supports need to be directed. We should be soliciting feedback from groups who are most impacted. Resource reallocation may be needed to address support gaps.   

2. Disabled students on IEPs are suspended at the highest rate, relative to other subgroups tracked within ETHS. Within that group, Black students are disproportionately impacted. While suspension data related to students on IEPs are included in written board reports, they are not presented to the board (data related to other subgroups are), and board members don’t ask questions about disabled student data. The disproportionalities related to race, disability (and likely other marginalized identities) and the corresponding intersections are ALL important because that information should be considered while assessing causes, impacts and paths forward. For disabled students, these data indicate an inadequacy of supports—we need to be revisiting IEPs, identifying root causes, and responding accordingly. 

3. As our disabled students have been underserved for far too long, this group needs special attention; this is evidenced by our outcome and our outplacement data. In addition to addressing disproportionate discipline rates, we should look at expanding co-taught courses (currently, quite limited, forcing students to select courses that offer too little or too much support) and empowering students with assistive technology, using an integrative approach, which includes applied practice for students and professional development for teachers. The Special Education Parent Advisory Committee needs to be reimagined to actively engage with parents; in this space, parent voices are often silenced (especially parents of students in our transition programs and the ETHS Day School). Student voice needs to be elevated and integrated. We need disability affinity groups and subgroups within that space for Black, Latino/a/e, and LGBTQIA+ students. A community task force (with disability representation) is in order.  

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.

Done well: Hired Dr. Campbell as superintendent; Dr. Campbell relates well to the students and students respect him. He brings his own vision to his new role at ETHS; it is time for our vision to change. Dr. Campbell has the background, leadership experience and charisma to create meaningful, long-lasting change with community buy-in.    

Could have done better: See answer related to the top three challenges—the board is responsible for holding the administration accountable; the board has been too passive. These issues are historical and present (thus, relate to the previous administration, but are now leaking into the present).  

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?

As the question reflects, this is a national issue (OPRF, for example, shows a similar trend in the 5Essentials data). Since we understand this is a national issue, we can look to see how other districts are addressing this and integrate what makes sense for us. Considerable research exists with respect to how to foster environments teachers tend to thrive in; these environments provide teachers with resources, minimize class sizes to foster improved instruction and learning, provide professional development opportunities and ensure teachers’ professional judgment is respected by administration. While we’ve increased our social worker capacity, we are not meeting the needs of students; that overflow falls onto our teachers. We need more social workers. Most importantly, we need to seek teacher feedback and elevate and integrate teacher voice in decision making. The board can prioritize these issues within goals and policies and hold the administration accountable for ensuring appropriate action.          

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 need to take a serious look at our math instruction. We have too many students failing math and needing support outside the classroom. While there is nothing wrong with needing additional supports, it’s important to make the most out of classroom time (especially for students who may have limited learning windows in a given day). This issue was exacerbated by the pandemic. I agree with Dr. Bavis’ point that math is cumulative; students who are lacking foundational knowledge are going to struggle. At the same time, missing foundational skills are often spotty and can be taught. It’s been distressing to observe what feels like deflection by our current board with respect to reading and math as “D65 issues” when so many students are not being served at ETHS. The lack of textbooks in most math classes creates a barrier for some students (especially when note outlines are also not given). I’ve seen students go from failing to understanding material (and passing exams) with a change of teacher in the same math class. We need to look at best practices for math instruction; there is no shame in looking at other models. This is what we should be doing; it’s standard evaluative practice.

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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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