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.

Monique Parsons

Current board Vice President Monique Parsons 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.

Evanston is my hometown. This city is the place my family calls home. This is the place where I had my first job as a junior camp counselor with the City of Evanston. This is the place where my mother taught us the power of having a voice at the table, what it meant to be a lifelong learner and why it mattered to give back to the community. This is the place where I raised my son and now my grandson.

For nearly 30 years, I have committed my professional and personal time to youth development, family outreach and building stronger communities. After graduating from the University of Minnesota and working in the criminal justice field for the State of Minnesota, I intentionally chose to relocate back to Evanston to raise my son in the community that raised me and to work locally where I could make a direct impact in shaping a positive future for youth. My community-impact work has included roles in the juvenile justice fields and in various nonprofit settings like the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, and the Evanston McGaw YMCA where I currently serve as president/CEO. In all of these roles, I live through my belief that the best decisions are those made by the people most impacted. 

I am a proud resident of the Evanston/Skokie section of District 202 and serve as a board member for the ETHS District 202 Board of Education, where I am the current vice president. I enjoy cheering on Wildkit sports teams and watching college sports.

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

With a school as large and dynamic as ETHS, we face many challenges at once. Our board is committed to facing these challenges head-on, and our response must be dynamic. It is our job to ensure that the goals and priorities are set for the administration, as they are the ones that are responsible for creating an action plan. While our challenges change, as we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have persistent challenges, such as:

  1. The mental wellness of our students 
  2. Racial equity and the opportunity gap 
  3. School safety

However, all three of these challenges are intertwined and woven together. It is our job to address these challenges by ensuring the superintendent is prioritizing these and that the board creates goals around addressing them. 

For example, at a recent meeting, the board received a student wellness report from the administration. The board has asked the administration to provide us with a list of solutions to respond to the needs of our students. Thus, the administration has asked to hire additional school social workers and mental health staff. Teachers and staff will also be receiving additional professional development opportunities to weave social-emotional curriculum into their classes, among many other traditional and non-traditional responses to supporting our students.  

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 incredibly proud of the process and the result of the superintendent search that the board went through last school year. The board made it a priority to seek feedback from as many community members as possible. From students, to staff, to parents, to teachers, it was important for us to hear the perspective and the desires from our community. Additionally, hiring Dr. Campbell as the district’s first Black superintendent is a win for all students, families, and staff at ETHS. Dr. Campbell has a long history in Evanston and has come up through the ranks as a leader at ETHS. This unique experience is one that has allowed him to not only hit the ground running, but has allowed him to be creative, be bold and be intentional in his leadership as superintendent. 

As a board member, it is extremely important for us to be reflective and honest in our successes and challenges. Now that we are on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have reflected on things we could have done better as a community. During this crisis, so many decisions were made at an incredibly fast pace, and sometimes the board could have done a better job of prioritizing how and when we communicated decisions to our community. During this time, we were building the ship as we were sailing it, so sometimes information got lost or was not communicated effectively. This is an important reflection for me and something that I have tried to keep front of mind as we continue to make decisions as a board. 

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?

First, let me say that I truly believe that the teachers and staff at ETHS are superheroes and do incredible work on a daily basis. Burnout and turnover is a national problem that was expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic and is still very much an issue. Our educators are dedicated and work extremely hard to provide the best for our students and I, personally, could not be more grateful for their work. 

As a board, it is our responsibility to prioritize celebrating, recognizing and honoring our teachers and staff. The administration has and continues to look for ways to acknowledge our teachers and staff. However, this is not a quick process. To boost morale, we must be intentional and thoughtful in our approach. Additionally, we must find creative ways to not only support the wellbeing of our students, but also our staff. We cannot ask teachers and staff to take care of our children, if they are not able to take care of themselves first. As a board member, I am committed to keeping this as a priority and ensuring that our educators feel supported and appreciated. 

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?

The relationship between District 202 and District 65 is as critical as ever. Dr. Campbell and Dr. Horton communicate with each other regularly, and we must work together to address these trends. Articulation between the two districts is important, and the relationship between the administrations, the boards and the teachers is vital to addressing student needs.

Additionally, District 202 has a history of being innovative and being bold when it comes to implementing curriculum and addressing how students learn. For example, our math department offers non-traditional classes, such as geometry in construction. These classes provide students with a data-driven opportunity to learn in a more hands-on, project-based learning environment. 

As a board member, I will continue to prioritize our relationship with District 65 and ensure that we continue to push our administration to think creatively and be bold in our approach to addressing our student’s needs

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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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