The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board oversees an annual budget of more than $100 million, but spent 15 minutes at Monday night’s board meeting debating whether to accept a $1,000 donation in support of students who are foreign refugees.

Donations to the district for various purposes, from drinking fountains on the school playground to artwork to hang in the principal’s office, are subject to board approval.

Normally, this is accomplished in routine fashion as part of the “consent agenda” of non-controversial matters that are dispensed quickly and unanimously with no discussion.

But Monday night, member Claudia Garrison raised an objection to a $1,000 donation by Mardi Klevs and Joseph Feinglass “to support the settlement of recent refugee students within the district to live in Evanston.”

She said she questioned the equity of spending extra funds, even though donated for that purpose, for supporting refugees.

Fellow board member Candance Chow pointed out that virtually every gift is designated for some special need that is not sufficiently accommodated in the district’s budget.

In fact, there were three other gifts up for consideration, all of which received the usual unanimous favorable vote:

A gift from Hessica Clarke and Drew Coxhead via the Advise Us Fund, of $2,500 to Chute Middle School for extracurricular/general school activities benefiting low-income students in the arts and other areas of need.

A gift from the Willard PTA of $2,000 for the installation of a ceiling mounted projector in the Willard auditorium.

And a gift from Buchana Energy of $500 to support the Math and Science Department at Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies.

Board President Tracy Quattrocki said “it’s difficult to turn away gifts for students in need.”

When the vote on aid for the refugee students was finally taken, it passed 6-1, with Garrison casting the only negative vote.

Then the board took up other matters, such as student achievement, progress on issues mandated by the strategic plan, and approval of a summer school program, in the time remaining.

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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