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Evanston Township High School District 202 School Board member Gretchen Livingston kicked off her campaign for a second term Friday night by asking the voters to help her continue her efforts to enhance the board’s goal-driven culture that has made ETHS one of the nation’s premier high schools.

The event, held at the home of her University of Michigan roommate and long-time friend, Sixth Ward Ald. Jane Grover, had the feel of a college reunion as the pair demonstrated the closeness that comes from having once shared the joys and agonies of college life.

Former roommates Grover (left) and Livingston at campaign kickoff.

In her remarks to the assembled neighbors and supporters, Livingston said she voted for the controversial curriculum changes involving freshman humanities and biology, although she did so with the assumption that the board and administration would be vigilant in watching for the unintended consequences which often follow academic change.

But it was clear that she was most concerned about improving the board’s goal-setting process and contended that vast strides had already been made, including several meetings that led to constructive dialog, involving community members as well as administrators and board members.

The result, she said, were “measurable objectives and measurable targets.”

She contended that the school “is on a good path” and has been cited by national surveys as being among the top 2 percent of the nation’s schools, with a wide range of students taking Advanced Placement courses.

But she reminded her supporters that academic excellence does not come cheap, and she expressed her appreciation to the taxpayers for funding the school in a way that it can operate within its budget, unlike some 67 percent of the other school districts in the state.

Livingston is one of two incumbents and six other candidates vying for four seats on the seven-member board. Elections for school and city officials will be held on April 9.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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23 Comments

  1. PEG, detracking freshmen honors to end D202 incumbents term

    The "controversial curriculum changes involving freshman humanities and biology" at ETHS was the detracking of freshmen honor courses.

    Any ETHS student reading at the ninth grade level can enroll in the so-called freshmen advanced courses. This is because D202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said there were "too many white faces" in the freshmen honor courses. Livingston and all D202 Board members agreed and unanimously detracked freshmen honor courses.

    I have heard from too many parents that ETHS teachers are teaching down because there is a wide range in the academic level among students in these so-called honor courses. These classes have been watered down and they are not truly honor courses.

    Schools that really care about academic achievement require students to earn their stripes to get into honor classes.

    I wonder what Grover and Livingston think about racial preference in college admissions. Oh yeah, voters in the state of Michigan voted for a state constitutional amendment to ban race-conscious admissions in public education that includes their alma mater, the University of Michigan.

    The Sixth U.S. Court of Appeals last November overturned that voter referendum  to ban race-conscious admissions. Not to be deterred, the Supreme Court is expected to decide a case testing the constitutionality of the use of race in admissions at the University of Texas.

    I'd love to know Livingston's thoughts on whether there is institutional racism at D202. Afterall, Livingston and other D202 board members voted to pay the Pacific Education Group (PEG) tens of thousands of dollars to advise administrators and staff about diversity issues and raising awareness of race in Evanston.

    If you remember the last D202 election, board incumbents Jane Colleton, Keith Terry and Mark Metz, defended D202's work with PEG. The only two incumbents running in that election won the three available seats. Metz was the only incumbent to win that race and he received less votes than the two challengers.

    It's our chance in April to vote out the D202 incumbents again who are more focused on poisionous and divisive race-based policies rather than academic excellence.

  2. Don’t support candidates who support PEG

    Here's why no one should vote for any candidate who supports Pacific Education Group ("PEG").

    Dr. King said these inspiring and words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963:

    "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today."

    But 50 years later, PEG and its founder and executive director Glenn Singleton have flipped that dream on its head by preaching their twisted version of so-called diversity education.

    Read what the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote about PEG and Singleton last March:

    "In promoting the view that white people and "Black and Brown" people have very different cultures, Singleton employs crude racial stereotypes that most Americans rejected years ago. For example, he claims that "White individualism" fosters "independence," "individual achievement" and "upward mobility," and that white people are "intellectual" and capable of "quantitative thinking."

    In contrast, "Black and Brown" culture promotes "collectivism." Black and Brown people are "emotional and "interested in feelings," and communicate through "body motions" like "rolling of the eyes" and "other nonverbal expressions."

    Full editorial at:  http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/142129013.html?refer=y

    PEG also preaches that all whites must acknowledge that they are personally oppressors and that those who fail to acknowledge that they are oppressors are more culpable for not ending their oppression.

    All I can say is what rubbish.  It would be bad enough if PEG and Singleton spouted this racist garbage to the general public by selling books and giving speeches.

    But what's truly horrible that these hacks have been paid tens of thousands of dollars by D202 to peddle these racist stereotypes about black, brown and white children.  How is such blatant racism constructive for our children or our community?  (It's very constructive for PEG as that's how it makes millions each year from schools across the country who have bought into this nonsense.)

    Why would anyone send their children to a school where the administration and the teachers have been systemically taught that a child's skin color will determine exactly who he or she is, how she or she views the world and how he or she interacts with others.

    IF (and that's a big IF) my child enters ETHS, under PEG's teachings, that child will be labeled as a white oppressor who, if that child does not agree that he or she is an oppressor, will be labeled as a racist who refuses to take responsibility for his or her actions.

    We have taught our child to view all people as equals, to treat everyone as an equal and not to label anyone based on their physical appearance, speech, etc.  What am I telling my child if I send that child to a school that has chosen to teach its administrators and teachers to put every child in a race-based "basket" without any regard for their individual intelligence, talents or goals?

    Any candidate who supports PEG should not make decisions on educating Evanston's children and should not be entrusted with public funds to support PEG's racist teachings.

    1. Labeled as a white oppressor

      You misunderstand how it works.

      Your white child IS a racist because s/he is the recipient of white privilege.

      Disagreeing with that only shows how out of touch his/her upbringing is with community standards.

      1. Yes — that’s what PEG teaches

        As you illustrated, PEG's arguments are ridiculous.  Thank you for making that very important point — under PEG's teachings, if you don't admit that you are a racist, you are only illustrating that you don't understand that you are a racist.  That's logic that rivals any second grader.

        How can anyone support this drivel? 

        More importantly, how can the D202 Board justify taking hundreds of thousands of dollars away from our children's education to give it to these hucksters? 

        Please do not vote for any candidate that says that he or she will continue to give money to PEG.  And let's start hearing exactly who those candidates are.

      2. I assume this is from—

        This posting was probably from a white supremecist who wanted to start a race war

        or

        a minority was has been to too many PEG or Jessie Jackson speeches.

        Either way it represents a thinking not only contrary to the facts but common sense and with an understanding that, if from someone in Evanston, shows how poorly the schools have done at educating—let alone the churches—in instilling 'knowledge' and common sense.

  3. Clarifying positions

    I agree with your comments Anonymous Al, but 2 points need clarification: – Keith Terry was on D65 Board, not sure how he view the work of PEG. – Bill Geiger, a new candidate for D202, seems very supportive of PEG, something for voters to research and consider as they cast their votes.

  4. I don’t view Livingston as an

    I don't view Livingston as an advocate for PEG. Just because she hasn't spoken up against PEG doesn't mean she's a fan. My view is that she tries to work within the "political system" at ETHS to get things done. In fact, it was because of Livingston that the NU professor is conducting an outside review of the freshman restructuring. In this election, she certainly deserves to be one of the 4 candidates on your ballot if you want a more rational, data-based approach to educational decisions. I'm skeptical of Bill Geiger who seems like he's running simply to help his friend Witherspoon. I'm also avoiding the two candidates supported by Rachel Hayman.

  5. Livingston never voted to support PEG

    Ms. Livingston can take credit for a lot of work on the Board, including the pro bono evaluation of the freshman year changes by outside experts, but she has never voted to support PEG.  They were retained before she came on the Board.  And it goes without saying that she cannot take credit for decisions made by voters in Michigan or the University of Michigan related to affirmative action.  She has lived in Evanston for 23 years and in the Chicago area for nearly 30 years.

    I have know Gretchen for the past 15 years professtionally and personally and know she will continue to be a great board member.

     

  6. Look closely for PEG connections

    Maybe Livingston has never voted for PEG, but how come she has never voiced a complaint about the administration never giving the Board the chance to vote on PEG — even after D202 has paid PEG nearly $300,000 of our tax dollars — most of it on Livingston"s watch?

    And how come fervent PEG supporter Rachel Hayman is pushing for 202 Board candidates Elena Garcia Ansani and Pat Savage Williams?

    Note that if you Google Pat Savage Williams,one of the first things you'll see is her "Pacific Educational Group page."

    1. PEG paranoia

      THere are many things to consider when voting for a school board candidate.  I hope EN readers will take the time to attend a forum or at the very least check all of the candidates websites before voting.

      1. Sincere concern about racism is not paranoia

        While there are several issues that we can quiz School Board candidates on, the candidate's stand on PEG will decide my vote. Why?  Because what PEG teaches about black, brown and white students (as PEG calls them) is so fundamentally at odds with my views, I do not want anyone who agrees with PEG making decisions for our community's children or spending our tax dollars.

        That hogwash has cost us about $300,000 from what I can tell. There are dozens of better ways to spend our scarce resources than that simplistic and racist drivel. 

        It's not paranoia. It's a defining issue. 

        EN:  please ask each candidate whether he or she supports additional funding for PEG beyond any contracts already approved by the Board. It would be very, very helpful to have a straight answer from each candidate. 

    2. Elite group wants PEG and no freshmen honor courses- VOTE!

      There is a connection between PEG and the D202 School Board's decision to eliminate freshmen honors only courses.

      '“I am confident that high-achieving students will have a stronger experience in mixed-level classes,” said School Board president Rachel Hayman, noting that students will benefit from the diversity of perspectives and will be motivated to work harder under the “earned honors” system. “We know the approach we have taken in the past has not worked for a large number of students,” said Hayman. “Continuing to do the same thing that has not worked in the past is not acceptable.” 

      How would high achieving students who score at or above the 95th percentile on an eighth-grade exam benefit from students who score in the 40th percentile?

      Funny how all the Livingston supporters here never mention Livingston's vote in 2010 to eliminate freshmen honors only courses. 

      There is a political elite in Evanston that supports PEG, eliminating freshmen honors only biology and humanities courses and a new school in the Fifth Ward. The trick is to shine a light on those elites and VOTE them out!!.

      Livingston, D202 incumbent Deborah Graham, Elena Garcia Ansani and Pat Savage Williams I believe are part of that elite group, which probably hopes for a low voter turnout.

      I support  Andrew Bezaitis, Doug Holt and Casey Miller.

      1. Watch out for Casey Miller and Bill Geiger

        Casey Miller is running a low profile campaign and is running because of his connections with Mark Metz  via EBSA.  Mark has been a Witherspoon "yes" man.  Has been a strong supporter of PEG and has voted to end Freshman Honors only courses in English and Biology.

        Bill Geiger has been heard saying is running to help his friend Eric Witherspoon (PEG, No Freshman Honors, etc….)  He is connected with Witherspoon thru the Y Board as is Elana Gracia Ansani.

      2. How and when ‘mixed’ courses can work

        I come from an area [and time] where many rural children attended literally one room schools through eighth grade.  Many of them turned out to be very good if not top level students in grades 9-12.

        One reason this worked was students progressed at their own level.  However the teacher could not do this by herself [and usually she was alone].   The older children or those that were more advanced, taught or rather helped the younger or those who needed help.  As the saying goes you learn/understand best when you have to teach it.  That worked very well then—-I don't even know if such schools [one room or close] exist anymore—some experimental schools seem to be trying some concepts like that.

        However in Evanston grades X-12 how well would that work for 'mixed classes.'  Are teachers and aids prepared to spend the extra time to prepare lessons that cover the full-range  of student ability ? Are they willing to spend  after school time to tutor those who are falling behind and those that feel they are getting shortchanged [the real 'gifted' students].

        Colleges long ago found that students who had to take remedial classes or be tutored–esp. by other students—that those students felt singled out and it was a badge of dis-honor.  I would assume that to also be true of students in Evanston who fall behind and more so for minorities.

        I see [what I assume are parents] at NU tutoring but what it appears to be the advanced students who are being tutored  well beyond their grade level.  At EPL I see some tutoring going on [I usually can't tell at what grade level but some seem to be 'catching up'] but most appear to be white and perhaps they feel less social stigma [a guess].

        Where mixed classes are being held [whether by freshly mixing them or they have always been that way] how have the teacher and school  been able to do in covering the whole range of ability ?

        An educator testifying before Congress once said [apologies to IIT] that "..it is better to graduate from IIT and flunk out of MIT."  If the courses are aimed at [however defined] the 'typical' student–let us say fully college prepared– and leaves those students who fall behind un/under educated and the gifted student bored [there are noted cases of the gifted dropping out  if alternativves like early college, tutors, etc.].

      3. ‘Elite group’?

        Most people I know are thrilled with the direction of the high school.  And trust me, my crowd is not by any means elite.  I think you should take a look in the mirror when throwing around the word "elite".  You might also want to consider venturing outside of your social circle and get an idea of what the rest of Evanston is thinking before making such comments.  There are varying valid points to this issue along with most others.  The hysteria on EvanstonNow about PEG and earned honors – brought up repeatedly by the same handful of individuals – is getting tiresome. 

        1. Defending PEG? Please back it up with facts

          So if fact-based comments about PEG exhibit paranoia to you, please provide your fact-based support of PEG's philosophy and teachings

          Please enlighten us on why PEG should have a continuing (and expensive) relationship with ETHS and this community.  How have our students and our community benefited from our association with PEG?  And should we just ignore the race-based "baskets" that PEG uses for all of our students?

          Can you cite a single educational group or research group or other organization (not affiliated with PEG or buying PEG's services) that has endorsed PEG's philosophy and teachings?  There is plenty on the internet with PEG promoting itself but I don't see others who are not affiliated with PEG endorsing PEG's approach 

          And before someone cites that PEG uses the term "courageous conversations" for its sessions, I'm glad to get that term on the table.  Claiming that their conversations are somehow courageous needs to be called what it is — marketing-based, feel-good hogwash.  I mean, who doesn't want to believe that they are being courageous?  If I'm wrong, please explain what is courageous about telling students basically "here's the basket you belong in based on your skin color."

          I know many people who are very unhappy about the direction that ETHS has taken in the last two years.  Many people do not like what they have read about PEG and recognize that PEG's ideas are a driving force behind the mixed-level freshman courses.

          If you are wondering, I've looked in the mirror and I am the definition of an outsider who is not part of the Evanston elite.  I am growing tired, too — tired of taxpayer dollars sailing out the door to promote racism.  Please tell me how you can defend PEG.

  7. PEG and the school board

    Whomever suggested this PEG stuff in simply paranoia, needs to pay closer attention.

    I attended a school board workshop lead by PEG and it was fascinating. It is nothing short of allowing Critical Race Theory to shape our school.

    Imagine having a school board and superintendent who were setting out to insert creationism and diminish the teaching of evolution. Critical Race Theory is a radical and fundamentally different ideology that what this community understands is shaping policy.

    Having followed this closely it would be wrong to equate Livingston as a supporter of PEG. She has consistently worked to hold the superintendent to his achievement goals for the program and it is no small feat that she lined up Figlio from Northwestern.

    Figlio has done numerous studies indicating the hazards of detracting. He should provide a meaningful and broad analysis. But – Yes – the school board has been run by a group of members pushing Critical Race Theory.

    Rachel Hayman, Mark Metz, Dr. Witherspoon and Martha Burns. The candidates brought to the table by these members are most likely strong supporters of the current direction being taken.

    Casey is a baseball guy – recruited by Mark Metz. Mark Metz is a true believer. That's just too cozy. Mark would never recruit someone who disagreed with the current direction.

    I'm voting Andrew Bezaitis, Doug Holt and Gretchen Livingston. Not because they are anti PEG or even closed to critical race theory – but because they question and want to see evidence of success, not just blindly following an ideology that makes them feel good.

  8. Sold and out

    I just sold my condo here in lovely Evanston.

    One of my compelling reasons to make the decision to list it was the high property taxes. 

    Moreover, the % of my property taxes that went to D202 – 27.29% (another 37.41% to D65).

    I could not honestly justify supporting a school district that hired and supports an organization like PEG. 

    I was appalled at the money already spent on PEG.

    Look, I have no children. 

    And many would say then that I have no stake in the game. 

    But my tax dollars are just as green as everyone elses.  And frankly I cannot believe District 202 continues to engage PEG, which has proven to be divissive, racist, expensive and agenda driven.

    Using racism to combat the racism of inequity is no way to consult.  Using subjective ideology to "consult"  and change the way schools operate is no way to got to market.

    If I were a parent, I would have had my children out of Evanston schools, particularly District 202, immediately with the presence of PEG. 

    I would say that the simple banter on this thread, and the history of controversial banter about PEG nationally in other Districts tells me there is something fundamentally wrong about this group. 

    And something fundamentally flawed about the decision making of District 202.

    1. Everyone has a stake
      Every Evanston resident has a “stake” in our schools – even if you don’t have kids in D65 or D202.

      Our country requires well educated citizens to properly function in a democratic society – all citizens should care

      Poorly/undereducated students have higher dropout rates, higher unemployment rates and participate in more crime – all citizens should care

      All property owners directly pay a large % and a large absolute amount of money to the schools – Renters indirectly pay money to the schools via their rent. Everyone is paying a lot of money to the schools. We’re spending over $22,000 per ETHS student and about $15,000 per D65 student.
      – all citizens should care

      Property values are directly correlated with the “perceived” quality of the schools. – all citizens should care

      While our family has 4 kids in D65 & D202 and are more attuned to the issues in both districts, I would strongly encourage ALL EVANSTONIANS to pay attention, get informed and vote in the upcoming School Board elections on April 9th. Many people have witnessed with dismay what irresponsible school board members can do to the quality of education at both D65 & D202.

      The School Board matters – all citizens should care

      1. Well said

        Well said, TP.  I agree with you, and my thoughts and efforts are with the children.  The strength of our country and communities is with our children.

        I will definitely inform myself regarding the candidates and cast my vote.

  9. Candidate Livingston — do you support more $$$ paid to PEG?

    I understand that there is already a contract in place between D202 and PEG.

    I would like Candidate Livingston to answer this question:  if elected, would you support using PEG to consult with and provide any services to D202 beyond what is already required under any current contract?

  10. A hate incident at ETHS that PEG doesn’t address happened today!

    Today at ETHS, by the back entrance, the word "FAGGOT" was stomped in the snow!  ETHS only wants to address race.  PEG in its so -called "Courageous Conversations" won't allow discussions of sexual orientation, religion, gender etc..  All of this money is being spent to "isolate race" and "institutional racism".  There is a lot more to diversity than just race!  Something needs to change!

    1. I am sorry and I couldn’t agree more on your views on PEG

      I am sorry to hear of this senseless and insensitive insult at ETHS.  No one should encounter closed minded bigotry anywhere and especially not at a school.  It is not acceptable and should not be accepted anywhere.

      You are right — PEG does nothing to address our broad-based need to teach acceptance of all students.  Instead, they demonize one race and insult other races.

      I agree that something needs to be done.  We need to elect people to the D202 School Board who understand that you cannot teach acceptance by pitting races against each other.  We need to elect people who will say NO to D202's funding PEG's brand of racism.

      Please encourage all of your friends who are 18 years old and older to find out which candidates want to end PEG's racist teachings in D202.  Many people are trying to get the candidates to address this issue but so far, there is only silence.

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