D65 voter’s dilemma: who to reject?

D65 candidates Tanyavutti, Cohen, Kartha, Hailpern, and Korzeniowski

In the April 4 election, voters in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will have a choice of five candidates to fill four openings. So the question they need to ask is “who should I reject?”

Elections are held every two years to select members of the seven-member board for terms that last four years.

That means that the board is divided into a Class of Three and a Class of Four when those elections come around. This year, it is the Class of Four that is up for possible reelection.

The four members whose terms are expiring this year in District 65 are Board President Candance Chow, Sunith Kartha, Tracy Quattrocki, and Claudia Garrison.

Because Quattrocki and Garrison chose not to run for reelection, the only incumbents in the race are Chow and Kartha.

But there are three challengers. In alphabetical order, they are Lindsey Cohen, Joseph Hailpern, and Nicholas Korzeniowski.

So voters will be asked to determine which of the five they want to reject in order to fill the four spots.

At a forum Tuesday night that was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Evanston, the Evanston Community Foundation, and the Evanston/Skokie PTA Council, voters got a chance to hear from four of the five.

Due to a family commitment, incumbent Candance Chow was unable to make it, although she did submit opening and closing statements, and an answer to one of the questions that was given to all candidates in advance.  Her comments were read aloud to the audience by moderator Paula Lawson of the League of Women Voters of Glenview/Glencoe.

For the most part, all five candidates appeared to be in close agreement as they answered questions, which is an indication that most actions they take during the year are likely to be unanimous.

They are all, for example, adamant about narrowing the achievement gap between racial groups, but none of them had a definitive formula for making that happen. And they were all somewhat negative on redistricting the attendance areas of the various schools, although they were open to doing so if it were proven to be desirable.

And they were also somewhat against the idea of providing charter schools. Cohen, for example, said that the establishment of a charter school “would be a signal that we are not doing what we should.”

And Kartha said that she believes that charter schools “would not be right for our community.”

Hailpern, however, when asked if charter schools should be considered by the district, gave an unambiguous one-word response: “No.”

So the key to making that crucial decision of who to reject, is likely to be based primarily on the personal backgrounds of the candidates.

The incumbents start out with an advantage that they have been tackling the district’s problems and opportunities for the past four years and are, therefore, up on the issues.

Chow, for example, has been president of the board for the last year, and has also been chair of the Finance Committee and a member of the Policy Committee. A former president of the Kingsley PTA, she has held leadership on a number of Evanston nonprofits and holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, focused on strategy and nonprofit management.

Kartha graduated from Northwestern and holds a law degree from Chicago’s Kent College of Law. She co-chairs the Evanston Cradle to Career Parent/Caregiver Empowerment Team and tutors in the Everybody Reads and Math is FUNdamental  fluency programs. Her particular interest on the board is the issue of racial equity.

Lindsey Cohen is an entrepreneur and a mother to three young boys. She has a B.A. from Northwestern in mathematical methods in the social sciences and economics and has an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. She says she started off her career as a pension actuary before she transitioned to strategy consulting, then marketing, and finally into entrepreneurship. She hopes to provide a valuable financial perspective to the board’s deliberations.

Joseph Hailpern has been a teacher and a school principal and feels that he would bring to the board a deep understanding of how the system works from the perspective of an experienced educator. He said he believes the board should support teachers and administrators while maintaining high expectations for them as professionals.

Nicholas Korzeniowski  studied political science and international relations at the University of Kansas before he went to work for Apple. He has worked in technology departments at three school districts in the area—in Winnetka, Wilmette, and now in Skokie/Morton Grove.  As the board faces increasing expenditures in technology, he hopes to help it cope with technology issues.

A recent addition to the board is also on the ballot. She is Anya Tanyavutti, who was appointed to the board last fall to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Jennifer Phillips, who had more than two years remaining on her term. So she is running unopposed for a term that will expire in 2019. Tanyavutti  has more than 15 years experience in education and community engagement as a teacher and head of a nonprofit community school program within Chicago.

The election for Evanston’s two public school boards on April 4 will also include municipal offices, including mayor of Evanston, city clerk, and aldermen for the city’s nine wards.

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